Few things are certain in high school football, but it’s always safe to assume North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.) is going to be in the state-title discussion.
Last season, the Tigers lost in the Class AAAA state semifinals by three points and finished No. 49 in the POWERADE FAB 50. And this fall, with many of their skill players returning, the Tigers will again be among the favorites to bring home the hardware.
One of the biggest reasons for the team’s consistent success is an always-strong offensive line, and junior offensive lineman Patrick Kugler is as good as you’ll find in the nation. The ESPNU 150 Watch List recruit and Michigan commit was named an ESPNHS Underclass All-American this past fall.
Kugler’s father, Sean, is the offensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And his brother, Robert, is currently in his first season at center at Purdue.
Clearly, it’s a family that knows the O-line. And Patrick might be the best of the bunch.
“He’s one of those guys who just loves to play,” says North Allegheny head coach Art Walker. “He plays hard every snap, he’s physical, he’s aggressive, and he’s a good locker room guy as well.
What makes this stellar junior one of the nation’s top offensive linemen? It’s time to Get Familiar with Patrick Kugler.
ESPNHS: How’s the offseason going? What are you up to so far?
Kugler: It’s been going really good. I’ve been doing some lifting, and this summer I’m hoping to play some AAU football. I’m staying busy.
ESPNHS: Is there a specific goal behind your lifting? Are you trying to get bigger, just gain strength, or just kind of stay where you’re at now?
Kugler: I’m definitely always trying to get stronger, and right now I’m just trying to mold my body. I have a little bit of a gut, and it would be awesome to get rid of that right now and just mold my body into a college-type body instead of a big wide-body high school hooligan.
ESPNHS: You play at a school — North Allegheny — that is always right in the state title discussion. What are your expectations for this upcoming season?
Kugler: If we don’t win a championship, it’s an unsuccessful season. We’ve got a great team coming back this season — great quarterback, great running game, great receivers and a great defense. The only question is going to be who starts on that offensive line, and obviously I’ll be there, and hopefully I can help give us a great shot at winning state.
ESPNHS: What are some of the things you think you need to work on before you get to college?
Kugler: Technically, I always want to improve on my pass blocking. I think we’re going to pass a lot more this year because we have a good quarterback and good receivers, and so that’s something I’m going to need to improve on. After that, it’s just keeping my feet underneath me and not losing my balance.
ESPNHS: Tell us about the process that went into your college decision.
Kugler: Well, I committed to Michigan a month ago, and it’s been nice having it over with and not having to talk to any other coaches.
ESPNHS: What were your favorite and least favorite parts of the whole process?
Kugler: My favorite part was just learning about all of the different schools, some prestigious programs. And my least favorite part was having to talk to all of these people who were trying to recruit me and continuously having to talk to people even if I knew I wasn’t going to their school.
ESPNHS: You’re from a family that knows its offensive line, between your dad and your brother. What are those conversations around the dinner table like?
Kugler: My dad doesn’t really talk a lot of football with us. We’re not criticized unless we ask for it, and then he’ll give us his two cents. But he’ll help us work out and improve. It’s not forced.
ESPNHS: Your brother just went through this whole recruiting process. How was he able to help you?
Kugler: He’s definitely really helped. He told me all sorts of schools to look at, and he told me what were some fun schools to go to and check out. He’s happy I chose a Big Ten school.
ESPNHS: You won’t line up directly against him, but is Purdue-Michigan the new rivalry now?
Kugler: Oh, definitely. We’re looking forward to it.
School: North Allegheny (Wexford, Pa.)
TV Show: “Family Guy”
Athlete: Maurkice Pouncey
Sports Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Video Game: “Assassin’s Creed”