— 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 firstname.lastname@example.org