“My team expectations are a state championship,” he said during Friday’s high school football media day at Citizens Bank Stadium. “I expect us to have a big year.”
But another goal for Hughes is still two years in the making. The 6-1, 185-pound junior has his heart set on playing Division I football.
“That’s my dream,” he said. “And I am going to try to live it out.”
His top two choices are Virginia Tech and Tennessee. To get there, he said Friday nights are important.
“Producing these next two years on the field is huge,” said Hughes. “I can go to all of the camps and show them what I’ve got, but really on the field is what it takes. I just have to ball out on the field and show how good I can be, and show I can play Division I.
“That’s what I’m going to college for. That’s what I want to do.”
Hughes has head coach Shawn Witten’s endorsement as a playmaker.
“He is really going to be a difference maker for us,” said Witten. “His work ethic from last year to this year is off the charts. His body frame is different. He’s a physical specimen.”
Indeed Hughes is put together. He credits assistant coach Jordy Harrison and Witten for helping him.
“They really pushed us in the weight room,” said Hughes. “Where I didn’t play baseball or a spring sport, I was in there pumping every day after school. And before summer football started, we were in there working out — me and Coach Harrison and Coach Witten, and a bunch of other guys. We were getting bigger and faster and stronger, so we could bring it out here on the field and really produce.”
Hughes also watched his intake.
“I haven’t been drinking anything but water,” he said. “I’m eating chicken and good meat, no bacon. And I’m drinking protein shakes and stuff like that.”
Another factor for the next level is grades, and Hughes said he’s working hard on that area.
“I’m making As and Bs,” he said. “I try to keep focused all the time in school.”
One challenge for Hughes this season is adjusting to a new quarterback after two seasons of catching balls from prolific passer Carter Everett.
“Last year I knew who my QB was going to be,” said Hughes. “This year I don’t know. That’s kind of hard. But I think Bryson (Rollins) or Cade (Maupin) is going to play well. I think we’re going to be all right, whichever one plays it.”
If Elizabethton is going to have a big finish this year, Greeneville is one team that has to fall. Hughes said discipline is the key to having a shot at beating the Greene Devils.
“Last year we were in the game, but then we had a lot of mental errors,” he said. “If we don’t have penalties, I think we can stay in the game.”