Patriots Draft: Q&A Virginia's Connor Hughes

Connor Hughes appreciates what it means to have an opportunity to try out for the Patriots. His coach is one reason why. "Coach Groh has always tried to model the program here after New England and that work ethic," Hughes told Patriots Insider. Get inside to see what else the Virginia kicker thought of his meeting with Patriots special teams coach Brad Seely this week.

Patriots Insider: You met with Patriots special teams coach Brad Seely on Tuesday, what did he tell you about competing for a job on the team?

Connor Hughes: Seely is a great guy. He had a lot of insight into areas where I can improve and also areas I can excel and where I could fit in. There is major concern with Adam Vinatieri leaving. He's the best clutch kicker hands down - the city loves him and that happens when you've done well like he has. No matter who comes into that job, the city isn't going to be happy. I think the other kickers in my class - I've talked to some of the other guys like (Ohio State's) Josh Huston - all understand that. The first kick you miss you're going to get booed. But if you can win the job, not many other places have as good a situation. It's a great atmosphere.

PI: Would it be different playing for the Patriots as opposed to a team who didn't just lose a 10-year veteran kicker to free agency?

CH: That comes with the position in general. I understand no matter how good you are, you aren't going to fill Adam's shoes. You just have to stick with it long enough for the city to give you a chance. It's a unique situation. There hasn't been many times where a great kicker leaves such a huge position to fill.

PI: What has Al Groh told you about New England, where he was an assistant coach before taking the head coaching job at Virginia?

CH: Coach Groh has always tried to model the program here after New England and that work ethic. He's definitely talked about the Patriots in his speeches. He always has newspaper articles about the Patriots. He just loves them and you can see why. They have a great program; they scout and get great players. As an organization, I think they're very solid and I enjoy their mentality. The players just get down to work and aren't worried about their own personal image and that's truly one thing that is most important about winning as a team.

PI: What is the coldest weather you've competed in?

CH: We've had a pretty good amount of cold games. Night games at Maryland end up getting cold and windy. Blacksburg (Virginia Tech) always gets cold toward the end of the year. I've been able to kick in the cold in the past.

PI: Do you think colder weather has ever affected your kicking negatively?

CH: Not really. The ball doesn't fly as far and it's a little bit more painful on your foot, but the technique is the same. The field goal posts are still the same width.

PI: You've made five field goals of 50 yards or more in your career. Do you feel long distance kicking is a strength that could set you apart?

CH: I feel like I'm a pretty accurate field goal kicker in general - not just the longer ones.

PI: Your team went to a bowl game all four years you were at Virginia. What is it like kicking under pressure in bowl games?

CH: It's great. It's something you have to live for as a kicker. If you don't like pressure, you shouldn't be kicking field goals. I really enjoy being the guy expected to win the game. I understand that people fail, but it's when you get back up and go back out there that sets you apart. You have to kick with courage otherwise nothing good will happen to you.

PI: What will be the biggest adjustment kicking in the NFL as opposed to kicking in college?

CH: It'll be interesting playing for a city instead of a school. It will be different representing people who live somewhere instead of people going to a specific institution. Instead of being recognized as a student who is an athlete, it's your career and consumes your whole lifestyle.

Dave Fletcher is a longtime contributor to Patriots Insider. An accomplished writer and sports analyst, you can find more of his articles by searching for "Dave Fletcher" in the archives on

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