All it takes is the visit to the Shriners Hospital for that reality to set in.
"The atmosphere at the Shriners Hospital, it hit me," said Hughes. "Those sad kids... it's hard to see them go through something like that. That's really opened my eyes while I've been down here. You see what it's all about."
For the game, Hughes has had to make a transition. After playing quarterback this season at New Bern (NC) High School, where he led his team to a state title, he's now playing cornerback, the position he will be playing in college.
"It's going good," he stated. "I'm transitioning back to the defensive side of the ball, and so far it's going well. Basically, it's natural. I have to get back to the fundamentals, things like that, but it's been good."
One of the top uncommitted prospects at the event, Hughes laughs when asked about the number of players in his ear, hoping to get him to join them on the next level.
"We laugh and joke about it, but there's no big pressure from any of the guys."
That talk has come mainly from players committed to NC State and North Carolina, two of his three finalists, along with Florida. One of the players in his ear is New Bern teammate Duncan Musselwhite, an offensive lineman who will enroll at NC State in January as a preferred walk-on.
Hughes, who rode down to the Shrine Bowl with Musselwhite, knows that the guy who snapped him the ball all season wants to play more football with him.
"Duncan, he's been telling me he wants me to go down there with him," said Hughes. "I know we already have two New Bern Bears at State so it would be nice to have two or three more."
Another positive for NC State is the relationship Hughes has built with recruiting coach Des Kitchings.
"He's kind of like a... family guy to me," Hughes said of Kitchings. "He's been on me since the 10th grade so obviously our relationship is close. He's a great guy."
Hughes, who has announced that he will be making his decision on Monday, appears to still be finalizing his decision. His mother will arrive in Spartanburg on Friday and they will have a couple of days to pick a school.
"The deciding factor, I'll sit down with my mom and probably my uncle too," he said. "I'm pretty close with him. We'll talk about it, write down some pros and cons, and go from there.
"It's going to be a hard decision."