Northeast Times

Pair of Public Leaguers earn D-I scholarships

All-Amer­ic­an: Justin Moody, who was honored by Wash­ing­ton in Oc­to­ber after be­ing named an All-Amer­ic­an, will play his col­lege at Pitt­s­burgh. TIMES FILE PHOTO

— Wash­ing­ton’s Justin Moody (Pitt­s­burgh) and North­east’s Dav­id Pul­li­am (East­ern Michigan) will play col­lege foot­ball.

Justin Moody and Dav­id Pul­li­am are tired of hear­ing about people’s cri­ti­cisms of the Phil­adelphia Pub­lic League. As far as they’re both con­cerned, play­ing foot­ball in the Pub­lic League was their spring­board to the next level.

George Wash­ing­ton’s Moody and North­east High School’s Pul­li­am will con­tin­ue their foot­ball ca­reers in the fall in col­lege after earn­ing schol­ar­ships to the Uni­versity of Pitt­s­burgh and East­ern Michigan Uni­versity, re­spect­ively. Moody (6-foot-3, 270 pounds) will be a de­fens­ive line­man at Pitt, while Pul­li­am (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) will play safety at East­ern Michigan, loc­ated in Ypsil­anti, about 40 miles west of De­troit.

Each play­er had noth­ing but praise for the Pub­lic League’s level of com­pet­i­tion as well as their coaches and former team­mates for help­ing them get to the next phase of their ca­reers.

“I cer­tainly think the Pub­lic League has pro­gressed and got­ten bet­ter every year I’ve played in it,” Pul­li­am said. “People tend to look down on it, but it’s no cake walk. I par­ti­cip­ated in some camps play­ing against three- and four-star re­cruits and I thought, ‘Man, these guys are no bet­ter than the ones I go up against every day.’”

Moody’s case was a bit dif­fer­ent. Wheth­er he played in the Pub­lic League, Cath­ol­ic League or on Mars, he was go­ing to be a top-flight re­cruit. In ad­di­tion to Pitt, Moody con­sidered Purdue, Syra­cuse, Temple and Cali­for­nia, all ma­jor pro­grams in top-BCS col­legi­ate con­fer­ences. 

He gave im­mense cred­it to those around him, namely long­time Wash­ing­ton head coach Ron Co­hen, as well as former de­fens­ive line mate Shar­rif Floyd for help­ing him real­ize his own as­pir­a­tions. The former has spent three dec­ades mold­ing young men on the foot­ball field, while the lat­ter has served as a ment­or to Moody. (Floyd, who gradu­ated in 2010, re­cently com­pleted his ju­ni­or year at the Uni­versity of Flor­ida and is ex­pec­ted to be a first-round se­lec­tion in April’s NFL Draft.)

“I wouldn’t have wanted to play for any oth­er coach … he’s more than a coach to me,” Moody said of Co­hen. “He taught me the dif­fer­ence between right and wrong.” As for Floyd, Moody re­ferred to his friend as an “older broth­er” who taught him how to work hard and be a lead­er.

“We still talk a few times a month, and his ad­vice has taken a lot of the stress off,” Moody said of Floyd. “We love each oth­er and have a bond that can’t be broken.”

Co­hen is no stranger to get­ting the most out of his play­ers. In ad­di­tion to Floyd, he’s also coached play­ers like line­back­er Jameel Mc­Clain, a mem­ber of the Bal­timore Ravens, whom ad­vanced to the Su­per Bowl on Sunday. Co­hen said Pitt, which will move from the Big East to the At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence this sea­son, is get­ting a heck of a play­er in Moody.

“I’ve been for­tu­nate to have a lot of guys get to the next level, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it,” Co­hen said. “It’s a pleas­ure to coach these young men and watch them ma­ture and handle the pres­sure they have to go through. Justin has worked hard and has ris­en to the oc­ca­sion. He’s ready for it, and I’m real proud of it.”

Though he ad­mit­ted it soun­ded “corny,” Co­hen re­ferred to the Wash­ing­ton foot­ball pro­gram as a fam­ily. Mc­Clain still keeps in touch on a reg­u­lar basis and hosts workouts for G.W. play­ers in the off­season, and Floyd is “al­ways a phone call away” even dur­ing this busy time in his life. Mc­Clain has spoken at a past Wash­ing­ton gradu­ation, and Co­hen said plans are for Floyd to do the same. By keep­ing guys who have achieved suc­cess close, there’s a trickle down ef­fect to young­er guys who be­lieve they can ul­ti­mately rise to the same heights. 

“I know people use the word loosely, but we are a fam­ily,” Co­hen said. “It takes that many people to help these young men along the way.”

In Pul­li­am’s case, he watched as former team­mates De­ion Barnes (Penn State) and Ma­lik Stokes (Bowl­ing Green) put in the time and ef­fort to earn schol­ar­ships. That, in es­sence, made Pul­li­am strive for goals he pre­vi­ously be­lieved to be im­possible.

“You know, my dad and I just had this same con­ver­sa­tion,” he said. “Watch­ing those guys made me think, ‘Wow, I can be a Di­vi­sion I play­er, too.’ I saw the work they put in and it just made it more real.”

Ad­ded North­east head coach Jim Adams: “Dav­id star­ted as a quar­ter­back and re-in­ven­ted him­self as a safety. Not only that, but he really took care of things in­side the classroom. He’s got the po­ten­tial, and East­ern Michigan sees it. As long as he keeps put­ting in the time and ef­fort, the sky’s the lim­it for him.”

Pul­li­am said con­tin­ued mo­tiv­a­tion would not be a prob­lem. He wants to keep serving as a ment­or to young­er broth­ers An­thony and Mat­thew (ju­ni­or and fresh­man mem­bers of North­east’s foot­ball team, re­spect­ively) so that they can achieve their dreams, as he did. 

“It’s the same thing with my young­er broth­ers,” Dav­id said. “They saw how hard I pushed my­self, and they would be with me every day in the sum­mer­time run­ning and work­ing out. I told them, a Di­vi­sion I schol­ar­ship is at­tain­able if you want it.”

As for mov­ing away, Pul­li­am said he doesn’t ex­pect to be home­sick, but has a nice safety net in case he does start miss­ing Phil­adelphia.

“My mom works at the air­port, so I fly for free,” he said with a laugh. “If I ever get home­sick, I can punch my name in at the air­port and have that free tick­et home.”

Above all, Moody and Pul­li­am couldn’t be hap­pi­er to have achieved their goals right here in the Phil­adelphia Pub­lic League.

“It’s a bless­ing to have coaches want­ing you to come play for them,” Moody said. “I wouldn’t have it any oth­er way.”

Pul­li­am con­curred, and he’s head­ing to East­ern Michigan with something to prove.

“Guys in the Pub­lic League, I think they play with a chip on their shoulder,” he said. “I know I did. There are lots of tal­en­ted guys who are un­der-re­cruited. For me, a lot of teams on East­ern Michigan’s sched­ule (in the Mid-Amer­ic­an Con­fer­ence) are schools that re­cruited me but passed. Now I see we’re go­ing to play them and I’m like, ‘Oh man, I’m go­ing to get to show them they should have taken a big­ger look at me.’ 

“The ex­pect­a­tions will be crazy, but I can’t wait.” ••

Sports Ed­it­or Ed Mor­rone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or em­or­rone@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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