The first NFL game
The rookie defensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns, who has never seen an NFL game live, is listed as one of the team’s starting linemen for the game against the Lions.
“I feel like I’m looking forward to it more than a lot of people because being from Columbus, I watched the Cleveland Browns on TV, but have never been to an actual game,” Hughes said. “When I was at Cincinnati, I was supposed to go to a whole bunch of games for the Bengals, but never went. This is actually my first NFL experience, really.”
Having played at the University of Cincinnati, Hughes got the opportunity to play against other Conference USA teams in NFL stadiums, including Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. In addition to those games, Hughes also travelled with the Bearcats out to Heinz Field for contests against the University of Pittsburgh.
When Hughes walked into the locker room after the Browns made him their third-round selection in this past April’s draft, he realized a goal that he set for himself early in his playing career.
“I remember walking in the first day I got here in May for OTAs and seeing my name on the back of a jersey was just an amazing feeling,” Hughes said. “It feels like a real accomplishment. It’s a goal that you want as a little kid, just to be able to put on an NFL jersey and say you’ve been there. It’s a dream come true.”
That “dream come true” has led Hughes to Detroit and given him the opportunity to line up against a veteran offensive line that is charged with blocking for running back Jahvid Best and protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford so he can deliver the football to wide receiver Calvin Johnson as often and as accurately as possible.
Hughes is going into the game with the mindset to “just get better, like I do at practice every day.”
“It’s always for the blood,” Hughes said of the adrenaline rush he gets when playing an opponent. “You always practice against the same people every day. They know your moves; you know their moves. You’re just going back and forth. To practice against a new opponent is a great feeling.
“Detroit’s a good team. We watched film on them throughout the day, before practice and after practice, and I know this is a good line we’re going against. I’m just going to go out there and give everything I’ve got.”