Peter Pujals: Leaving his Legacy
By Edie Markman
Special to GoHolyCross.com
It is no secret that senior Peter Pujals has become synonymous with Holy Cross football. His journey to success, however, has been anything but painless. Entering the 2016 campaign, the veteran quarterback began the season expecting it to be his final year as a Crusader. But after a season-ending injury, he was given the unique opportunity to return to The Hill for a fifth year. “My senior year was taken away,” said Pujals. “But I got a second chance to come back and do it again. I couldn’t let that opportunity pass.”
Only minutes before halftime in the 2016 Homecoming game versus Dartmouth, Pujals was injured. On a quarterback run to the left side, he was swarmed by multiple defenders. During the tackle, he was brought down awkwardly at the bottom of the pile, leaving his left leg broken right above the ankle. Pujals walked himself off the field, initially not knowing the extent of his injury. Had he gotten injured just moments after halftime, he would not have been eligible to participate in a fifth season.
Recounting the difficulties of his injury, Pujals cites not finishing his football career with the teammates in his class to be the most disappointing aftereffect. “You start the season having a vision that we are all going to go out this year, we are all going to go out together,” said Pujals. “That didn’t work out.” However, Pujals was not the only returner in his class. Fellow seniors such as Gabe Guild, James Murray and Nick Piker also came back for a fifth season.
Pujals did not let the injury impair his leadership position on the team. “I learned how to lead when I wasn’t playing,” said Pujals. He continued to attend all meetings, practices, film viewings and traveled to every away game to provide any advice he could give. “I was trying to do everything I could,” said Pujals. “But it was hard when we were losing and I wanted to be out there to help, but couldn’t.”
Pujals’ undying faith in the Holy Cross football program and intense competitiveness were the leading factors in his decision to return to Mount St. James. “I didn’t want to end like that,” admitted Pujals. “Offensive coordinator Brian Rock is here, and we know the offense. It was a great opportunity and I took advantage of it.” Pujals’ maturity developed during his five seasons of participating in Division I football has led to his progression in becoming a pocket quarterback. The extra season of playing provided Pujals with a greater understanding of the game. “I looked at football with a different perspective than I had in the past. Being able to have another offseason and year to mature and become a better player and leader has helped me a lot.”
CONTRIBUTION TO HISTORY
As the first four-year captain in school history, Pujals takes the honor as an immense responsibility to prove to his teammates they made the right decision electing him as their leader. “I know the team has my back and they look to me as a leader, so I need to continue to improve myself. I am honored they selected me for this privilege, but it definitely is a responsibility.” Pujals said. “I want to fulfill my potential, and I want the people around me, and the team, to fulfill their potential. That’s all I can ask for.”
Pujals has proven to his teammates and the Holy Cross community that the decision to entrust him as a leader has been the correct one. The Crusaders already own a 51-26 victory over No. 9 New Hampshire this year, and have earned their first national ranking since 2010.
Entering this week’s game with Lafayette, Pujals ranks second all-time at Holy Cross in career passing yards (10,044), completions (928), pass attempts (1,541), passing touchdowns (75), yards of total offense (11,675) and touchdowns responsible for (92); and stands fourth in completion percentage (60.2 percent) and pass efficiency rating (126.0). With a strong finish to his senior year, he has the chance to become the Crusaders’ all-time leader in multiple categories.
LEAVING HIS LEGACY
The impact Pujals has made on Holy Cross football through his five years of dedication is one that will be appreciated for generations to come. More than just a rehabilitated athlete, Pujals is an example of how to fight through adversity to earn an outstanding legacy.
Although Pujals is graduating this semester, he does not plan on saying goodbye to the game he loves. “I want to keep playing football,” said Pujals. “I have always had the dream of playing in the NFL, and that’s what I want to do, but I have realized that I can’t control everything.”
Pujals will forever be a Holy Cross record breaker, but for right now his sole focus is concluding his illustrious Crusader career. “I anticipate us having a great year,” said Pujals. “We want to win a championship, that’s the ultimate goal.”
This story originally appeared in the Holy Cross Football Gameday Magazine for the Sept. 30 contest between the Crusaders and Lafayette.