"That's what I was picturing myself as right there was being like L.T. Watching him playing, watching him run around, he was great," Hughes told Packer Report.
Instead, the Horned Frogs' coaching staff thought the all-state running back and kick returner might be better suited playing defense.
"I wasn't too excited about that move at all," Hughes said. "I can't even lie. I was really upset with that. Being somebody who had envisioned himself coming to the college ranks carrying the ball, catching the ball, scoring touchdowns, I wasn't too happy about playing defense. The first thing I had to do to make that adjustment was change my mind-set around."
Hughes took the advice of his parents, Jerry Sr. and Pam, and wound up embracing the move. With 26.5 sacks during his All-American junior and senior seasons, Hughes is a strong possibility to be the Packers' first-round pick. Rather than Tomlinson, his lightning-fast first step and tenaciousness give him a chance to follow in the footsteps of another famous player with the same initials.
"It worked out the best way it could have. I can't be like the running back L.T. but I can be like the linebacker L.T," Hughes said of Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.
The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Hughes went from a two-year backup to one of the most-feared defensive ends in the college game. As a junior, he led the nation with 15 sacks and six forced fumbles, earned consensus All-America honors and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Award (top defensive player) and Ted Hendricks Award (top defensive end).
He followed that up in 2009 with 11.5 sacks and won consensus All-America honors again along with the Hendricks Award and Lott Trophy (top defensive player).
"Hughes is an athletic defender who possesses the quickness and hand placement to be a terror off the edge," Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber said. "He has a quick first step and is tough to control off the edge. He plays with great leverage and suddenness, and changes direction fluidly while in pursuit. He possesses a solid repertoire of moves and is able to get off blocks consistently with his high motor and tenacity on the field."
Jerry Hughes nails Boise State's Kellen Moore.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
"I think it's a very intriguing position," Hughes said. "I'm not too familiar wtih the position but I know that's where people are kind of looking at me to play. I've got to fine-tune my skills and just work hard at it."
Hughes, who showed outstanding athleticism at the Scouting Combine, has drawn comparisions to the Colts' Dwight Freeney because of his lightning-fast first step and ability to beat offensive tackles around the corner. It's a comparision Hughes embraces.
"My bread and butter's speed, man," Hughes said. "I'm going to go out there and play fast for four quarters, all four downs. The best thing is coming off that edge and hitting one of those QBs."
Hughes, who was born in Sugar Land, Texas, hadn't heard of the exploits of Packers outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene. Told of Greene's 160 career sacks, Hughes was impressed.
"Any time you're able to work under any of those guys who know the game and played it at a high level and have been through it, it's always going to be a great learning experience because they have so much that they can teach you," Hughes said.
Hughes is considered a candidate to go late in the first round or early in the second. The Packers, selecting at No. 23 and having lost Aaron Kampman in free agency, could be targeting Hughes as the bookend to Clay Matthews III.
"I know that I'll be overwhelmed with emotions," he said when asked about his feelings with the draft starting on April 22. "This has always been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I always would wake up on Sunday morning and watch those guys play. I'd always tell myself, ‘I want to be like this guy' or ‘I want to be like that guy.' I'm just living a dream. It'll be an amazing thing. I hope my name does get called."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.