The road to the NFL has not been an easy one for Penn State center Juice Scruggs, which will likely make the payoff that much sweeter when he gets there.
Scruggs entered the Nittany Lions’ program in 2018 and spent his first year as a redshirt. A week before spring practices began in March of 2019, he got into a car accident that saw him escape with a fractured vertebra and a concussion. The road to recovery was difficult, but he healed up to play in 7 games in 2020. For his determination in coming back from such a major injury, he was the co-winner of the Tim Shaw Award, which is given to Penn State players who have overcome adversity and been an inspiration to his teammates.
Fast forward to now, and Scruggs is a two-year starter at the Big Ten level, which saw him go up against some of the toughest defenders in all of college football. He closed out his collegiate career on a high note, having been named a team captain in 2022 and winning the Rose Bowl in his final game in a Penn State uniform.
With his sights set on the NFL, Scruggs is prepared for whatever may come his way and seems determined to make his dreams come true. I had the chance to speak with him about the East-West Shrine Bowl, all he’s accomplished in college, the origins of his “Juice” nickname, and more.
JI: You have the opportunity to play in the East-West Shrine Bowl coming up. What does that mean to you to get invited?
JS: Oh, yes, definitely. I’m definitely appreciative that I got the invite to the Shrine Bowl. It’s definitely something that’s been going on for a long time, so I’m definitely thankful. I’m just excited to go down there and compete against some of the best players in college this year, some of the best seniors, and just happy to go compete and display my talent.
JI: You’re already quite battle-tested being in the Big Ten. Who’s the toughest defender you’ve had to block in your career?
JS: I would say for me personally, it was probably Mazi Smith from Michigan. I went up against him two years, and he’s a powerful dude. He’s probably the toughest guy to go with.
JI: I remember Mazi was listed No. 1 on the college football Freaks List. Dude’s a monster.
JS: And I understand that!
JI: How was the experience of finishing your final collegiate game as a team captain, winning the Rose Bowl with your group of guys?
JS: It was definitely a great season, definitely a great way to end my career at Penn State, winning the Rose Bowl. They call it the “granddaddy of them all”, so it was definitely cool to have that experience, and to be able to win the game was pretty cool. I was just honored that my peers on the team elected me a team captain. It really meant they believed in me, and I was honored to be able to be a team captain this year.
JI: Which guys on Penn State do you think aren’t getting as much love as they deserve for the 2023 NFL Draft?
JS: Yeah, I have two guys in mind. Definitely PJ Mustipher. He was also a team captain, and I just don’t think he gets enough enough credit for what he does, because what he does necessarily doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. He’s getting double-teamed a lot and taking on blocks for the linebackers. He’s really a great leader for us, and also Ji’Ayir Brown, another team captain. Those two really lead our defense, and as the season went on, our defense got better and better. In my opinion, [Penn State had] one of the best defenses in the country, and those two really led the way over there.
JI: Where did the “Juice” nickname come from?
JS: I’ve been called Juice my whole life. My dad gave [the nickname] to me. He said, when I was little, I guess I didn’t drink milk, so everybody just started calling me Juice, and it just stuck. From ever since I can remember growing up, I’ve been called Juice.
JI: Have you thought about doing any trademarks or endorsement deals with the Juice name?
JS: I’m definitely gonna have my team look into that. We can get some stuff rolling. But yeah, definitely. There’s definitely some deals to be made with that.
JI: Looking back on all you’ve accomplished since your car accident, if you could go back now and say something to yourself when you were in recovery, what would it be?
JS: Really, just to keep going. Just stay focused, keep a tunnel vision, and just keep pushing, because even though — I remember, when I went through that, times were hard — but just keep pushing. Just keep going forward, because eventually, there’s light at the end of the road.
JI: How do you spend your free time outside of football?
JS: I’m a big relax guy. Just chillin’, whether [I’m] playing video games, or just watching Netflix or Hulu. I’m just chillin’.
JI: Do you have any shows you’re binging right now?
JS: I’m actually watching a show right now. I just started it on Netflix, it’s called Kaleidoscope. You can watch it in any way, and I heard good things about it, so I’m getting into that.
JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?
JS: You’ll be getting a guy that’s willing to come in and do whatever it takes to make the roster, and not only make the roster, but to get on the field. I’m a guy that’s definitely a team player. I’m not going to cause any problems in the locker room. [I’m] not a cancer to the team, anything like that. You’re just going to get a guy that’s dedicated and committed and going to do whatever it takes to win.