Hughes Turns a Corner in Starkville

Home is not necessarily the best place for Chris Hughes.

Starkville is where he needs to be, according to his high school coach. Because Starkville is where Hughes can thrive and blossom as a person and a football player. In today’s Journal, you can read about the rough journey Hughes has made and how he’s trying to stay on the straight path (CLICK HERE).

“The most difficult thing, and we tell all these kids from Mobile, especially the ones that their home life does not have tremendous structure: Don’t come home. Stay in Starkville,” said Fred Riley, who coached Hughes at Davidson High School in Mobile, Ala.

Riley cited a couple of cautionary tales: The recent arrest of Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley on marijuana possession, and the arrest a couple of years ago of then-Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Both men were back home in Mobile when the trouble occurred.

“There were just certain people that would grab hold to them and pull at them, and they just seemed to struggle to escape from them,” Riley said. “Chris had some of those issues, but he seems to have really cleared that hurdle. We certainly hope so.”

Hughes believes he’s grown up and come out the other side of his struggles a better, wiser man. He was arrested twice last year, buried his 18-year-old brother, spent time in jail, and still must deal with the heartache of losing his father and grandmother during high school.

Hughes actually didn’t play football as a sophomore at Davidson because of poor grades.

“There was a lot of things stirring around that family always. One of our coaches and his wife invested a tremendous amount of time in Chris,” Riley said. “Football, not football the game, but football the family gave him an opportunity. All the things that came with being a football player, all the people in that football network, that he would not have had access to had he not been an athlete, probably saved his life.”

At MSU, Hughes has seen playing time but not done a whole lot to get noticed, except for that flagrant hit on an Alcorn State player his freshman year, which earned Hughes a one-game suspension. A groin injury limited him last season, in which he played just five games.

He said that injury resulted from not working hard enough, so he’s rededicated himself to being physically prepared. Hughes has put on 15 pounds this offseason – he said he used to eat three meals a day, but now eats six.

Riley knows the talent Hughes possesses, saying, “He’s always the meanest guy on the team. He hurt people when he hit them.”

Hughes said he felt last year was “wasted,” and he wants to make up for that.

“Coming off the injury that I suffered, it just made me value the game,” he said. “When I was injured I just kept wishing and wishing I was out there. And now I’ve got my chance again, so I’m just taking full advantage of it.”