San Francisco’s Golden State Giants are among 15 teams competing in the current Northern California Football League season.
Looming large behind center for the minor league football Giants is 6-foot-4, 300-plus-pound quarterback Fidel Pugh.
The native of San Francisco’s Fillmore district steered Galileo High’s offense in the late ’90s and played one season at City College of San Francisco before moving on to Kentucky State University.
Pugh, 29, moved back home after his sophomore season with the Thorobreds. For the past six years, he has been the track and cross country coach, as well as a campus security guard, at Wallenberg High in The City.
“It feels like I’m supposed to be there, helping the kids,” Pugh said.
After work one recent afternoon and before the team’s weekly Thursday night practice, Pugh gathered with other Giants at the unofficial team headquarters, Newbill Barber Shop on Divisadero Street.
Holding court from his barber chair was head coach and team president Hudari Murray. The coach took a moment between clips of a haircut and glanced over at his quarterback, who he also coached at Galileo.
“His arm is true talent. He has a rocket, a cannon for an arm,” Murray said. “Twelve years later I think he has everything that it takes to win a national minor league championship.”
Those gathered at Newbill agreed that their quarterback, nicknamed “The Big Agile” for his “escapability,” may not throw the ball 70 yards as he did in high school, but he still has the tools of a field general.
“I’m a little bigger now than I was, but I’m wiser and the game comes faster to me,” Pugh said.
The Giants’ 60-man roster ranges in age from 19 to 42 with various generations of San Francisco football players.
“The whole mix together is fun; it’s great,” Pugh said. “It’s like a dream come true. It’s like decades of football all on one team.”
The NCFL’s spring season allows San Francisco fans an opportunity to watch competitive offseason football. And for the players who thought that their careers may be over, another chance to lace up the pads.
“Some of the guys could be out getting into trouble, so it’s a positive thing for the community,” Pugh said. “When you have to go to practice, and you have someone bugging you, like coach Murray, it brings discipline back in your life.”
The coach reacts with a smile while continuing to work on his client’s haircut.