Hughes becoming a leader in MSU secondary

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

STARKVILLE – Jay Hughes found a role last summer and had a productive fall, putting in some quality weekend work. He’s been honing his craft and has a promising future.
In fact, after Mississippi State’s football practice on Tuesday, the sophomore was headed off to put in even more work – with his band. Hughes plays lead guitar for Melogic, a local group that plays gigs around Starkville and the MSU campus.
They cover Black-Eyed Peas, Marvin Gaye, Kings of Leon and Stevie Wonder, among others. Hughes, who plays safety for MSU, joined the band last summer and has enjoyed it as much as he has football.
“Football is my passion, music is my heart,” Hughes said.
He first picked up a guitar in 10th grade so he could play for his church. Never took a lesson.
As his father, MSU safeties coach Tony Hughes, put it, “Natural talent.”
Jay Hughes’ football talent has led him on a similar path. After a redshirt season, he played in 13 games and made 11 tackles last fall. He’s now positioned to be a starter after the departures of Wade Bonner and Charles Mitchell.
Hughes is already taking on a starter’s mentality this spring.
“One guy I see talking a lot more than I ever saw is Jay Hughes,” cornerback Corey Broomfield said. “He’s really coming into his own back there. We had a situation today where we had to switch, and he called it out first. That excites me.”
running the show
That’s a key role for the safeties, a group that includes Louis Watson, Dee Arrington and the injured Nickoe Whitley, a hard hitter who should start once he returns from an Achilles’ injury suffered in November. While the Bulldog cornerbacks – Broomfield and Johnthan Banks – get a lot of well-earned publicity, it’s the safeties who run things.
Tony Hughes compared them to quarterbacks, noting that all of State’s safeties played QB or some other offensive position in high school.
“Those guys make a mistake, the other band starts playing,” defensive coordinator Chris Wilson said.
Watson, a converted cornerback, is a senior and calls himself the “granddaddy” of the group.
“I don’t take it as a task, because I feel like these guys, they look up to me and I look up to them,” he said. “They encourage me and I encourage them, so we all just have a good chemistry back there.”
With Whitley out this spring, the other safeties have ample opportunity to build up that chemistry. Once Whitley returns, the offseason losses will require more of Hughes and the others.
“Like coach Mullen said, he said we’re counting on people that was getting five reps last year to get about 60 reps this year,” Hughes said. “So I’m just happy I’m in a rotation. I’m a young guy still learning, and I’ve got to get some more confidence, and I’ll be all right.”
Hughes doesn’t have any interceptions at MSU, but he said on Twitter last week that if he returns an interception for touchdown in Saturday’s spring game, he would “jump on stage with Sugarland and jam!!”
Sugarland is performing at Davis Wade Stadium following the game. A pick-six and then pickin’ his guitar on stage? The best of both worlds for Hughes.
As for which endeavor holds more promise for his future, he’ll just let it all play out.
“If the football thing works out for me, then so be it,” Hughes said. “I ain’t banking on it, but I’m going to work hard. If it don’t, I’m definitely going to try to stick to my music.”
brad.locke@journalinc.com