Butkus-type 'backer

A hard-hitting middle linebacker who idolizes Dick Butkus is very much on Tennessee's recruiting radar.

Travis Hughes, a 6-1, 222-pounder from Kempsville High in Virginia Beach, was watching television recently when he was intrigued by some vintage Chicago Bears footage.

Tony Hughes, Travis' father, recalls it this way: "He was watching NFL Network and he said, 'Dad! Dad! Come here! Who is this crazy man?' It was Dick Butkus. I told him Butkus was real calm off the field but an animal on the field. Now Travis likes Butkus. He also likes Ray Lewis."

In addition to linebacker, Hughes has college potential as a running back. He rushed for 1,350 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. As a linebacker he posted 79 stops, 7 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries.

"He's being recruiting for running back and linebacker but linebacker's his calling," Tony Hughes said of his son. "He's a hell of a linebacker. He just came back from the Nike National Combine at Virginia Tech, and he did very well."

Rated a 4-star prospect by Scout.com, young Hughes was tabbed All-Beach at both running back and linebacker last fall, plus honorable mention all-state. He has been nominated for the U.S. Army All-America game and appears likely to play in several other talent showcases.

"He and Curtis Grant, a linebacker from Richmond who is rated the No. 1 player in the state, were picked to go to the Gridiron Classic in Orlando sometime in June," Tony Hughes said.

The elder Hughes noted that his son boasts a 325-pound bench press and a laser-timed 4.52 clocking in the 40-yard dash, numbers which have dozens of major college coaches intrigued.

"It's scary to see this recruiting thing," Tony Hughes said with a laugh. "Oregon, Southern Cal and LSU are all after him. I know Lane Kiffin is all up into him. Southern Cal's very hot to trot on him. A lot of colleges have come by. Georgia came by the school this week and made an offer.

"He's got more than 20 offers. Texas Tech, Kentucky, Tennessee, Michigan, Penn State, East Carolina, North Carolina State, UConn and Oregon have offered."

At the moment a half-dozen teams sit atop Travis Hughes' preliminary shopping list.

"Right now he likes North Carolina, LSU, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Southern Cal," Tony Hughes said. "Those are his top six right now."

The Hughes family is accustomed to big-time recruiting. Trenton Hughes, Travis' older brother, went through the process earlier and is now a defensive back at the University of Maryland.

To tone his body and hone his speed Travis Hughes runs track during football's offseason.

"I keep him in track so he'll have closing speed," Tony Hughes said. "If somebody's getting away for 20 yards, he'll run 'em down. He's getting so big now, though, that it's a whole different story."

The agility Travis developed playing running back may have helped refine his linebacker skills, as well.

"A lot of colleges are converting their running backs to linebacker," Tony Hughes noted. "That's why they like him: He's college ready. And he's doing good in his grades."

Asked to describe his son for those who haven't seen him play, Tony Hughes didn't hesitate:

"He's very aggressive. He's got a major burst. He's got a motor. He's a hell of a leader. He's a playmaker. He's a field general who covers from sideline to sideline and hits like Butkus."


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