“I’ve been talking to the coaches since my sophomore year and we had a great bond. I just had a special connection with the coaches.”
Did the opportunity to play early play a factor?
“Yes sir. The depth chart is pretty weak at defensive back. I feel like I’ll be in a pretty good position when I get there.”
What sort of role did Sha’mond Squires committing to UNC as a preferred walk-on play in your decision?
“It was a big factor. I’ve known him since the sixth grade. It feels good to have somebody to come up there with me.”
On his relationship with Dan Disch:
“Like I’ve been saying, I’ve known him since sophomore year. He’s a great coach. We’ve always had this special bond.”
What did he say when you told him?
“I told him not to tell anybody. He was ecstatic [because] everybody thought I was going to go to State. I just wanted to be different and start my own journey. I just wanted to follow my heart and my heart led me to Carolina.”
What sort of advice did Disch give you?
“Of course he was pretty biased about me going to Carolina, but he told me to follow my heart. He wasn’t a real selfish coach – I respected that.”
When did you begin leaning towards UNC?
“Probably after the Shrine Bowl game.”
During Shrine Bowl week, did you pick the brains of any of the commitments there?
“Yeah, I talked to Juval Mollette and Mason Veal. They said they liked it. They said they had been up there a few times and liked the atmosphere – and so do I. It was somewhere where I could see myself playing.”
What has UNC said the game plan is for you position-wise?
“As I started narrowing it down, they started recruiting me as an athlete. Primarily, they want me to play DB. But they said they’ll find a way to get the ball in my hands. We’ll see. They talked about getting the ball in my hands as far as the return game and a couple offensive packages they are developing for me.”
When you spoke to Disch on Saturday, did he update you on the status of UNC’s defensive coordinator opening?
“No, he hasn’t told me where they’re at yet. I’m sure they want to take care of this bowl game first and then we’ll probably sit down and talk about it.”
Have you lobbied for any coaches, maybe D.J. Durkin who helped recruit you for Florida?
There were some reports that you had it narrowed down to two schools. What was the second school?
“NC State, because of the coaching change at Florida and the location.”
What was the difference for you between UNC and NC State?
“We’ve had a special bond since my sophomore year – since they offered me. And my heart just lead me to Carolina.”
What was it like to be officially visiting Florida the weekend it fired Will Muschamp?
“It has never happened to me. I didn’t know how to react. I wasn’t comfortable going with a coach I hadn’t met or bonded with. It kind of lowered them in my ranking in my top three.”
What will be the biggest challenge for you transitioning from a high school quarterback to college defensive back?
“The biggest challenge is transition from an offensive player to a defensive player, especially from a quarterback to corner. Going in early, hopefully it will help a lot. I’m looking to play early, work hard, and try to prefect my craft.”
What was the recruiting process like for you?
“It’s always going to be stressful. There’s always a lot of adversity that you need to climb over. But overall it’s a great thing to be stressed about. I’ve handled it pretty well, but I’m glad to make my decision.”
When do you leave for UNC?
“I leave Jan. 4.”
That’s a couple weeks away. What’s going through your mind?
“It’s time to grow up. This is the time I’ve got to be a man. I’m going to go down there and work hard and try to play early.”
BOBBY CURLINGS, New Bern head coach:
What type of player is UNC getting in Hughes?
“A good teammate, first of all. He’s going to go in humble. He’s going to go in as a hard worker. He’s going to go in and do whatever the coaches or team wants him to do whether that’s on offense, defense or special teams. He doesn’t have a big ego. He’s a tremendous leader – mostly by example. If he needs to be vocal he can. But he’s just an outstanding athlete, but an even better person.”
What did Disch tell you position wise for Hughes?
“I think early on, they were recruiting him as a defensive player. But when they came to watch him play in the Eastern Finals and saw him rush nine times for 270 yards, they scratched their heads a little bit and said ‘Maybe he does need to be on offense.’ I think when he gets there, they’re going to plug him in at a couple of different spots to see what works best for the team.”
Hughes primarily played quarterback for you this past season. How do you see him transitioning to cornerback full time?
“He’ll be fine. That’s what he played at the Shrine Bowl last week and he wasn’t rusty a bit. He’s just a phenomenal athlete. I told the college coaches, “He’s never been snow skiing, but if you gave him a week he’d find a way to be the first one to the bottom of the hill.’ He’s just a hard worker, a strong competitor, and he just has what it takes.”
What are your thoughts on how Disch has recruited Craven County?
“I think both the NC State coaching staff and the North Carolina coaching staff did a great job with recruiting. They were both here every time they could be here under the rules. Like most staffs, they were down to earth. [They] didn’t really go out on a limb and make a bunch of promises – they just spoke the truth and established a relationship with [Hughes].
“Disch has a great personality. He’s a former high school football coach. He knows what it’s like to go through this process on the other side of it maybe more than other schools. In the end, he did an outstanding job recruiting – Sha’mond as well – and I think that’s the thing that put them ahead.”
Mike Hughes Profile