Big back wants to be known as complete back

If you go to one of these combines which features prospects in the hundreds, you get used to doing the old eyeball test. You look at their frame and height and after that, you see how they use it. Chicago running back Robert Hughes was an easy one for the eyeball test as he was impossible to miss. That's part of his problem and one of the reasons why he chose to attend the U.S. Army Junior All-American Combine. He wants to prove that size can be deceiving.

At 5 foot, 11 inches tall and weighing close to 230 pounds, Hubbard high school's Robert Hughes is a load. He's as well muscled as any of the other recruits that were joining him in participating in the 2006 U.S. Army Junior All-American Combine.

That's part of the problem

Robert is as thick as they come; boasting 10 ½ percent body-fat and looking more like a body builder than a football player. Hughes said that some of the stereotypes that go with that kind of build are what he's trying to break down in San Antonio. "They really don't give me the respect that is due as far as being capable of playing running back," Robert said of coaches pigeonholing him as a linebacker or fullback. "I really have great hips and I have a little bit of hands and I've got enough speed to break away from people."

Robert Hughes

You don't have to ask his opponents if he can run as his statistics will give you that answer emphatically. On the season, Robert amassed 1,892 (that is over 15 yards per carry) yards on 126 rushing attempts, scoring 19 touchdowns. As a receiver Hughes totaled close to 400 yards receiving on 16 catches.

He didn't attain those gaudy averages by his elusiveness, though, something Robert will readily admit. If you have the size and power, there's no reason you shouldn't use it. But Hughes maintains that one of his best attributes is being able to be that physical kind of player early on, wearing down his opponents and just when they are tired of hitting him, he uses his feet and quickness to throw in the killing blow.

"I keep banging and keep banging and they start sitting on their heels trying to tackle me," Hughes said of opponents wilting after a good portion of the game trying to take him down. "That's when I put the move on them and I'm gone."

Having had a chance to see Hughes in person down in San Antonio for the 2006 U.S. Army All-American Combine, I could see just some of what he was talking about in regard to his overall ability.

On a short slant route, Hughes cut very well for someone his size and caught a hot-shot with a DB draped all over his back. On an ‘out', Hughes used his body to shield off a quicker and taller DB, and Robert even out jumped him to make a spectacular grab in the end zone. Hughes isn't a real explosive player off of the line, but he's got decent straight-line speed and he does get to and through the line of scrimmage with good velocity.

Robert's hips were probably the biggest surprise, because I, like many, look at just his sheer size and I don't project him to be all that flexible and have the kind of direction you would want in running backs on any level of play. No, Robert won't be confused for a scat-back anytime soon, but he moved through the footwork drills well, was able to cut well in the open-field and could reverse his field fairly quickly.

That's part of the reason he's already sporting written offers from Illinois and Virginia, and he's getting letters from a bevy of schools, including Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Miami, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas State.

As a kid, that letter from the University of Miami would have made Robert do cartwheels at just the thought of playing for the Hurricanes. Hughes still likes them, but age has taught him that what you see on TV doesn't tell you if that's necessarily the perfect place for you. "I really don't know if it's the best school for me, but they were my dream school because of the running backs they put out that I liked to model myself after."

When you are a big back that isn't labeled as a big back, it only makes sense that you would go where certain schools have used backs like that and made it work. The only problem is, those backs like Edgerrin James went in as heralded backs, recognized for their combination of speed, size and athleticism.

Hughes maintains that he has that and to his defense, he's proven that to a degree, during the two-day combine in San Antonio. Now, in addition to wanting a state title his last year, he wants everyone else to see, he's more than just a mauler. He is that, but he can be a dancer as well. "I just want coaches to see me for the player I think I am," Hughes said. "I know if they look at my film they will see that, but I know that you have to give them even more."

"That's one of my goals this year; to give them no reason to think I'm just some big guy that can't move. I can and if they aren't convinced now, I'm planning on convincing them before my senior season is done."

While Hughes said that Miami was a childhood favorite, he's not partial toward anyone right now. His priority now is coaching relationship over the recruiting process as the most important, with academics following closely behind. As for offensive system, well, you can imagine that Hughes doesn't mind what it is, just so long as he is being used in that system the way he's hoping for the future.

"I just want to be me and show what I can do – that's all," Robert said. "Wherever that is, I don't care. If the place is right, the coaches are people I see eye-to-eye with and the players are cool, that's where I will be."

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