Nearly five months later in the tunnels of the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, after the U.S. Army junior combine, I had an opportunity to meet Robert Hughes (5-11, 227 pounds). He had just completed an impressive day of competition, and I came away from our encounter as impressed with the person as I was the player.
"Nothing much," Hughes responded when asked what he had been doing since the combine. "I took a break after the combine, I sat out and let everything rest up. Now I'm getting back in track and starting to work out real heavy. I just got back with my trainer, so it's going pretty good.
"We're doing indoor now. I'm going to run the 100-meter, 55-meter and maybe 200-meter. I'm not sure though, because three events might be kind of hard. This is my first year in track. I just realized how important track was and I'm just trying to get faster.
"My coach has been saying that track would be good since my freshman year," Hughes replied as to why he started running track. "All I wanted to do was play basketball. Once basketball was over it was time to be back in the weight room and power lift to get ready for the season. I told him I wanted to get faster and he said, ‘run track and you'll get faster'. We have two of the best track coaches in the state, Earnest Lyles and Sherman Sampson -- they know what they're talking about."
Hughes is widely considered to be one of the best running backs in the Midwest. He already has a solid list of offers, but he is keeping an open mind when it comes to recruiting.
"It's a lot," Hughes said when asked which schools he was interested in attending. "Michigan (offer), Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State (offer), Oklahoma, USC, Virginia (offer), Penn State, Illinois (offer), Purdue (offer), Wisconsin, Iowa, Miami… I can't even name them all. Anywhere I can go and play Division I football, if I fit in and it's safe, I'd be happy.
I think I'm going to Ohio State this weekend," Hughes said of his plans to visit Columbus for a junior day. "They haven't offered yet. I'm not in a rush. If an offer comes then it comes. If it doesn't then I just have to work harder.
"They just brought Chris Wells in. I'm sure he'll get a lot of playing time, because he's a good back. If that's the place I'm comfortable with, then it doesn't matter what the competition is, the best player will win. The coaches are going to put the best team on the field. Any way I can help the team out I will as long as I feel comfortable at the schools. Competition is not a factor with me. If I have to sit out and wait my turn, that's fine as long as I can help the team."
Another team Hughes is comfortable with is the Michigan Wolverines. He visited Ann Arbor in January and returned home with a scholarship offer.
"They offered me at the junior day," Hughes said. "It was pretty exciting. I thought it was a cool school. I liked it. I know a couple guys that were there from the Midwest that I had met here or there. It was very exciting, very fun.
"I went to the Nike camp at Ann Arbor, but that was the first time I went there where they showed me around."
Hughes is also is hearing from the Notre Dame coaching staff, and he'd like to make a visit to South Bend.
"Most definitely," Hughes responded when asked if he was interested in Notre Dame. "Coach Ianello is pretty cool. I get text massages from him and I get mail, but that's about it.
"I want to go to some spring games. I hope I can get to Notre Dame for the spring game, to Michigan and a couple more schools. I just want to take a look around."