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Purdue's Kugler draws on wealth of family ties

| Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Steeelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler during OTAs on the South Side on May 2012. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)
Steeelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler during OTAs on the South Side on May 2012. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

When Robert Kugler told his father that he was moving from tight end to offensive line, Sean Kugler was understandably excited.

“He was able to coach me up a little more,” Robert Kugler said. “Plus, whenever I went home, he didn't have to throw me the ball anymore.”

Kugler's days as an eligible receiver are indeed over, and Saturday the redshirt freshman will make his third consecutive start at right guard when Purdue tries to snap a four-game losing streak against visiting Penn State.

Kugler has settled in on the line, and he has added 35 pounds since moving last spring. The extra weight allows him to take on 300-plus pound defensive linemen, and the 6-3, 285-pounder still has the speed to pull effectively as well as get to the next level.

“I think he's a very athletic guy,” Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson said of Kugler. “He's one of those players that we've got to find a way to get around.”

The Kuglers know a thing or two about that.

Sean played on the offensive line at UTEP, where his position coach was a guy named Andy Reid. He is in his third season as the Steelers' offensive line coach.

Patrick Kugler is an offensive tackle at North Allegheny and the Michigan-commit is one of the top line prospects in the country.

Robert Kugler benefits from each as he can work with and against Patrick — the brothers are as competitive as they are tight — and receive feedback from his father.

Sean Kugler has achieved a healthy balance as a coaching father while still staying involved with his sons' development.

“He doesn't try to outcoach the coaches,” said Robert Kugler, the 2010 state Class AAAA Player of the Year. “He's more, ‘Did you finish hard every play?' It's like a double-film session. He'll critique me.”

When asked to critique his son, the elder Kugler said, “No question there's technique things he's got to work on, and there's a lack of experience. He competes hard, as he always has, and as a player I know his coaches can help him improve. He can pull and get out in space, and he needs to use that.”

Father and son shared a special moment a couple of weeks ago that neither will forget. Robert Kugler made his first career start at Ohio State, and his father and brother were at Ohio Stadium for the game.

The Steelers happened to be playing the Bengals the following day, and coach Mike Tomlin told Kugler to leave early Saturday and meet the team in Cincinnati after the Ohio State game.

“As a dad, that was really a proud moment,” Kugler said. “I'm proud of him as a player, and I'm proud of him as a student.”

The younger Kugler still has considerable room for growth, and his offseason plans include putting even more distance between his future and his days as a tight end.

“I want to put on 10 pounds by next year because 285 in the Big Ten isn't very big,” Kugler said. “I feel like I can develop a lot more in that aspect.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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