Bloomington – Indianapolis Cathedral quarterback Kofi Hughes always had dreams of playing college sports – but not college football.
As a high school freshman at Lawrence North, Hughes played varsity basketball for Coach Jack Keefer. While basketball was his first love and he was already getting basketball recruiting interest from Illinois and Michigan State, he also had a desire to play high school football as well.
That couldn't be a part of the equation in Keefer's mind.
"With Jack Keefer, it's not a two-sport thing," Hughes said. "What he always said was if you're a basketball player you're a basketball player."
That kept Hughes off the football field as a freshman. For a variety of reasons, Hughes ultimately decided to transfer from LN to Indianapolis Cathedral as a sophomore. But Keefer wouldn't sign off on the transfer, preventing Hughes from playing varsity sports for a full year.
Resigned to playing JV football as a sophomore, Hughes was struggling to fit in at his new school and wound up quitting the football team last fall.
"When I transferred, I just wasn't clicking with people," Hughes said. "It was hard to find friends, and since I was restricted from playing I wasn't really in the mix."
At that point, Hughes thought he football days might be behind him. But close friend and Cathedral running back Nick Najem convinced Hughes to give it another shot this past fall.
"He was like, ‘Kofi, you are always playing around with us, why don't you come out and try it again,'" Hughes said.
Hughes agreed, and now owes Najem a great deal of gratitude. Hughes won the starting quarterback job and threw for 958 yards and eight touchdowns while rushing for another 1,289 yards rushing and 17 more scores. Most importantly, he helped guide Cathedral to the Class 4A state title and now he's a player that plenty of colleges are keeping a close eye, Indiana included.
"Once we won state, it was really emotional after all the hard times," Hughes said. "It was great to come out on top."
While his debut season of high school football convinced plenty of college coaches that he has the potential to play at the next level, Hughes knows he now has to convince them that quarterback is the right spot for him. He's not ruling out the possibility of playing another position in college, but he is hoping coaches will have an open mind about him possibly playing quarterback as well.
"One thing I want colleges to understand was that last year was my first year playing quarterback and my first year of playing football since the eighth grade," Hughes said. "People saw me as just an athlete running around back there, but I'm going to go to some camps and I want to be a quarterback.
"I have no problems playing wide receiver in college because I think I can do that, too. But I want people to see this next year and how I do at quarterback because I feel I can prove to a lot of people I can play the position."
Indiana is among the schools that will be watching closely. The Hoosiers had Hughes on campus a couple of weeks ago for one of its Junior Days, and has been sending Hughes mail 2-3 times per week. A scholarship offer hasn't been extended yet, but it's clear that the Hoosiers have plenty of interest.
The interest is mutual. Hughes was in Bloomington on a couple of different occasions in the fall for IU football games and says Indiana is at the top of his list right now as he begins to dive into the recruiting process.
"I'd say IU is on top – I really like what they are doing," Hughes said.
One of the things he likes is the emphasis the staff is placing on attracting in-state players. In the Hoosiers' 2009 class eight of the 18 signees were from the state, and the staff had 17 in-state targets on campus with Hughes late last month. Among those in attendance were Brebeuf's Evan Kroot and Zionsville's Blake Lueders, both of whom are good friends with Hughes from youth basketball.
"They said they want to build IU football with Indiana players," Hughes said. "I like that. It was good seeing the kids you grew up playing ball with. That would be neat going to the same place."
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