'Bula native waiting for Browns in Texas

Jan. 13—Juice Scruggs journey from Ashtabula to become a starting left guard in an NFL playoff was not an easy one.

Scruggs, son of Karen and Fred Scruggs, grew up in Ashtabula, but was unable to play midget league football because of size limitations. The family decided to continue his education in Pennsylvania, starting with his seventh grade year and to play football at Erie Cathedral Prep.

He now plays for for the Houston Texans.

Scruggs, a 6-foot-3, 308-pound starting left guard, and his teammates will go against the Cleveland Browns in a wild-card game at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday in Houston.

Scruggs said he, and the team, are excited about the big home game. He said the team isn't satisfied with just making the playoffs.

The teams played on Dec. 24 in the regular season with the Browns winning 36-22.

The Texans defeated the Indianapolis Colts 23-19 last Saturday to clinch their playoff spot, and won the American Football Conference South Division. Houston will host its first playoff contest since 2019.

Scruggs left Ashtabula after his sixth grade year to attend Blessed Sacrament School in Erie. He said his parents would drive him to the new school every day for two years.

"It was different. It wasn't easy ... I just knew the sacrifices that I had to make [to get to the next level]," he said. The next level at that time was college football."

After playing at Penn State University, Scruggs was picked in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft by the Texans.

"The draft was amazing," he said. "It was definitely a once-in-a- lifetime experience."

Scruggs said it was a great experience to see his parents react to the announcement and to be surprised by his own reaction.

"I was very emotional,"he said.

While Scruggs grew up in Browns territory, he actually became a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. He said his father is a Steelers fan and he followed his cue.

After making it through training camp and playing in pre-season games Scruggs was injured in the final pre-season game and ended up on injured reserve for the early part of the season.

The opportunity to be in the playoffs as a rookie is a bonus after spending much of the year recovering from the injury.

"It is actually crazy, being in the playoffs your rookie year is a blessing," Scruggs said.

After completing his junior high years, he entere Erie Cathedral Prep as a freshman and he and his mother moved to Erie. The Scruggs' home later became a stopping off point for two Madison brothers who were commuting to the school daily as he had in junior high.

Cam and Nolan Landis played with Scruggs on a state championship football team before Nolan Landis returned to finish out his shot put career in Madison. The two brothers continue to compete in the throwing events at Kent State and North Dakota State University, respectively.

Scruggs said he loved having them stay with the family after he experienced the daily grind of commuting himself during junior high school.

Scruggs said he appreciates all the sacrifices his parents made for him to reach his dream of playing in the NFL.

While he set his sights on the NFL, Scruggs didn't know if he could actually make it.

He said during his sophomore year of high school he received 15 scholarship offers, but it was always a choice between two schools — Ohio State and Penn State.

Scruggs said there was just something about Penn State and the chemistry coach James Franklin put together that eventually led him to the Nittany Lions.

While preparing for his 2019 red-shirt season, Scruggs was involved in a spring car crash where he was ejected from the vehicle and suffered a broken vertebrae.

He was told he could wait and let the injury heal on it's own and have a better chance of playing football, or have surgery and reduce his chances of playing. Scruggs chose the former and the gamble has paid off, after a stellar career at Penn State.

Karen Scruggs said she did not think her son would become a professional athlete.

"It is only one percent that get to be a pro athlete," she said. "I never thought it would come true. It still doesn't seem real."