Football: Long wait almost over for Pegram

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Reggie Pegram thought long and hard about what the opportunity to carry on a family legacy at North Texas might be like when he was a senior at Dallas Madison in 2010.

Pegram sat in the stands at Fouts Field and watched his cousin Brandon Kennedy terrorize opponents during his career as a defensive lineman and heard about the exploits of Erric Pegram, another cousin who was a standout running back for the Mean Green.

Reggie Pegram had a scholarship offer from UNT and passed on it to chase a chance to play on the big stage of the Big Ten.

It wasn’t until a few years later that Pegram realized that not even scoring a pair of touchdowns in a bowl game for Purdue could equal the opportunity following in his cousins’ footsteps at UNT presented.

The junior will finally get a chance to realize that dream Saturday when UNT opens the season against Idaho at Apogee Stadium.

Pegram is expected to play a vital role for the Mean Green after transferring to UNT in the spring of 2012 and sitting out last season.

“It’s been a long time,” Pegram said. “I can’t wait. I’ve been marking the days off the calendar.”

Pegram’s family members and teammates have been just as anxious to see him on the field again for the first time since the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl on Dec. 27, 2011.

Pegram scored on a 1-yard run and a 1-yard reception while rushing for 24 yards on five carries and catching three passes for 20 yards in Purdue’s 37-32 win over Western Michigan.

That performance was gratifying for Pegram but couldn’t fill the void left by being so far from home. Pegram saw that there was an opportunity should he transfer to UNT and decided to take advantage of it.

“I thought about coming here out of high school,” Pegram said. “UNT was my second or third offer. I came on an unofficial visit and liked it. At that time I was young and wanted to go somewhere bigger. I didn’t really understand what it would be like to be away from home.”

Pegram came home to Texas and started terrorizing UNT’s defense as a scout team running back last season, quickly fitting in with the rest of the team.

“It’s going to be great to see,” UNT linebacker Zach Orr said of Pegram being in a game again. “His locker is right next to mine. He gave us a good look on the scout team last year. He comes to work every day. I am looking forward to seeing someone else try to tackle him.”

Orr and UNT head coach Dan McCarney described Pegram as a quiet person who has worked hard to get to where he is today.

McCarney and UNT’s coaches did a lot of research on Pegram and his time at Purdue and said they never heard anything negative about him as a person or player, which made them comfortable taking him on as a transfer.

They couldn’t be happier with the results.

Pegram is listed as a co-backup with Antoinne Jimmerson behind starter Brandin Byrd heading into UNT’s season opener.

“The fans are going to enjoy Reggie,” McCarney said. “There is no question they will see him in the game. There is that rotation at running back that we really like. There have been some days in the last month that Reggie has been our best running back. That is a good thing because we know Byrd and Jimmerson are darn good football players.”

McCarney described Pegram, who is 5-9 and 213 pounds, as a complete player with size and a low center of gravity to go along with speed and quickness.

What could be particularly valuable for UNT is Pegram’s power, especially in the red zone, where the Mean Green struggled last season, scoring touchdowns on just 21 of 41 trips inside the red zone.

“When we get into the red zone, he’s going to be unstoppable,” UNT quarterback Derek Thompson said. “He doesn’t get arm-tackled. If you are going to bring him down, you have to gang-tackle him. He’s got good hands and can block well. He’s the whole package and goes well with the other two guys we have on the field.”

Pegram expects about 20 members of his family to be on hand for Saturday’s game, although he isn’t sure if Kennedy or Erric Pegram will make it.

Even if they aren’t there, the memories of the two other members of the family to play for the Mean Green will be alive and well.

Kennedy was the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 2002 and 2003, when UNT was in the midst of a four-year run as Sun Belt Conference champion. Erric Pegram led UNT in rushing in the 1989 and 1990 seasons.

Erric Pegram was induced into the UNT Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999, while Kennedy was a member of the 2012 class.

Reggie Pegram has waited a long time to add to the family legacy and will get that opportunity Saturday.

“It’s a pretty cool story that he is here,” McCarney said. “The bloodlines with the Pegram family run deep at North Texas. I love that kind of stuff and that there is real loyalty, tradition and legacy already. He will add to it.”

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.


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