You were hurt last year. What has it been like to your personally to come back and play this season?
"I just decided that I was going to work my way back up. We were going to get to the top one way or another. I told my guys during the off-season there is no easy way to the top. We are going to put the work in now or we aren't. It was as simple as that. And we definitely put the work in this past off-season. And the results were definitely what we wanted to see."
Your team was number 1 in the nation for several weeks. Now you are playing in one of the biggest bowls.
"It has been an amazing season. And I couldn't have asked to take the field with a better group of guys. With me being a senior, this has meant a lot to me. I feel like I have gone out with a bang. This season is the start of a lot of big things that are going to happen here at Mississippi State."
At SEC Media Day you said this was going to happen.
"Yes, I did. I saw a good season coming. Our team camaraderie has been great. There are a whole bunch of guys who love playing hard and who love playing the game. It was also our coaches and our families. And I think that you need that to win."
You mentioned coaches and family. You are in a unique situation because your coach was your family, your dad, Tony Hughes. This is the last game that he will be your coach. What is that mean to you?
"Man, it means a lot to me. I feel like I am playing for my dad and my coach. And this game is definitely going to mean a lot to me. How I perform is always directly reflected back to him. So, I always go out there and play my heart out for my team."
You played for him for several years while at Mississippi State. I think you played a couple of different positions.
"When I got here at Mississippi State they started me out at corner, then moved me to safety. I started out under Coach Melvin Smith. with Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay. Coach (Chris) Wilson moved me to safety. Since then, I have been playing for my Pops."
How do you handle that because you don't want to call him dad while he is coaching you at practice or during a game?
"It is like an on and off switch. When we are here it is all business. But I struggle because sometimes I call him coach, sometimes I call him day and sometimes I just say Pops."
What is he like when you are in the position room with him? And how different is he at home compared to being in the position room?
" It is never a dull moment in our room. He always keeps the juice going. He always keeps everybody excited and smiling. He is the same way at home. It is not much difference between us being up here and being at home."
You two are such nice guys. Is that a reflection on how he has brought you up?
"The way I was raised is definitely a reflection on him. My parents have been together for over 20 years. And me seeing that, being around that environment, I have no choice but to live the right way. This game is definitely going to be an emotional moment for me."
What does Mississippi State mean to you now? Are you going to be a Bulldog for life?
"Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog. HailState forever, HailState forever."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.