Normally, the player that makes the most impact for the Virginia Cavaliers gets the honor of “breaking the rock” after each football game. Saturday night, as the Hoos celebrated starting this weird 2020 season with a 38-20 win over Duke, someone different picked up the heavy hammer.
Meet Kelli Pugh, Virginia Athletics’ Associate Athletics Director for Sports Medicine. Pugh, who has been with football since 2002, has worked with the protocols put in place for the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
She’s led our health and safety through all of this and now she gets to break the rock! #Wahoowa, Kelli Pugh!#GoHoos | #THEStandard pic.twitter.com/NcsYBIFuIJ— Virginia Cavaliers (@VirginiaSports) September 27, 2020
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall credits everyone involved for helping make it possible to even play any games this season. Mendenhall, who mentioned after the game how surreal it was to actually be playing a game, was effusive in praise around how his team has been dedicated and resilient around the COVID protocols. “We have a saying in our program, that how you do one thing is how you do everything. And that’s what I believe, and that’s what I promoted,” Mendenhall stated. “It was rewarding to see that [no positive COVID tests], and I’ll certainly use that as leverage in terms of lessons learned.”
While the details about her direct responsibilities around the COVID-19 protocols and testing are not immediately available, Pugh has been part of the sports medicine team that has led Virginia to no positive results since the team returned in early July.
“She’s done so much for our team, and so much behind the scenes. There’s so many people that have done so much behind the scenes,” Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong said after the game. “She broke the rock tonight and she couldn’t be more deserving. It just puts a smile on my face to see her break the rock. And, you know, we got here with no COVID tests. We’ve done a great job. They’ve done a great job. Kelli’s done a great job.”
Way to go, Kelli. Break that rock.