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Pete Kugler

Sport: Football

Born: August 9, 1959

Town: Cherry Hill

Peter David Kugler was born August 9, 1959 in Philadelphia and grew up in Cherry Hill. Pete’s father was a civil litigator with a Camden law firm and was named Attorney General of New Jersey when Pete was 11. Pete’s older brother, Bob, followed his dad into the legal profession and became a district court judge. Another brother, Jeff was a top player for Cherry Hill High School East. He was the subject of a court case in 1975 that prevented him from playing varsity football because he was in his ninth semester in high school.

Pete was the better of the two brothers. Though two years younger, he was big, fast, smart and aggressive. He was a two-way lineman for Cherry Hill East, which played an annual Thanksgiving Day game against crosstown rival Cherry Hill West. Pete was one of several star athletes who played for the Cougars. Orel Hershiser, star of the baseball team, was a year ahead of him.

Pete was heavily recruited. Coach Bo Wood said he was the best player the school ever had. He stood 6’4” and tipped the scales at over 220 pounds as a senior, and was named the top offensive lineman in the state in 1976, when Cherry Hill East went 9–1. He accepted a football scholarship from Penn State in 1977.

The Nittany Lions used Pete primarily as an interior lineman on defense. The team went 40–8 during his four varsity seasons, and was ranked in the Top 10 three times. Pete played in four postseason bowl games and Penn State won three, including the 1980 Fiesta Bow, when the Nittany Lions beat Ohio State 31–19. That was Pete’s last game. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 1981. Three game-changing defensive backs were taken before Pete— Eric Wright, Carlton Williamson and Ronnie Lott—making it the best defensive draft in team history.

PKuglerPete, who now weighed in at 260 pounds, saw action in 13 games as a rookie in 1981 as a backup to Archie Reese. San Francisco went 13–3 and defeated the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI. Pete won a starting job in 1982 but battled injuries. In 1983, he started all 16 games.

Heading into 1984, the 49ers found themselves competing for Pete’s service with the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL. The Stars targeted Penn State players and offered Pete a guaranteed multiyear deal. He jumped to the young league in 1984 and helped the team win USFL Championship as a defensive tackle and end. Pete and linebacker Sam Mills powered the defense. Both were named to the All-USFL team, along with DBs Mike Lush and Garcia Lane. The Stars moved to Baltimore in 1985 and repeated as USFL champs.

The USFL folded after the 1985 and Pete returned to the 49ers, who retained his rights. He played five years with San Francisco, at all three defensive line positions. The 49ers won Super Bowls XXIII and XXIV, beating the Bengals and Broncos. Pete sacked John Elway in the 49ers’ 55–10 wipeout of Denver.

Pete retired following the 1990 season. In 10 seasons as a pro, he collected five championship rings. He had earned a masters degree in business at Penn State during his paying career. In 2015, Pete was a member of the inaugural class of the Cherry Hill East Sports Hall of Fame, along with NFL quarterback Glenn Foley.

 

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