• December 20, 2014

Reward of hard work

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Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012 4:30 am

“Faith works miracles. At least it allows time for them.” — George Meredith, “The Adventures of Harry Richmond”

Naashon Hughes was heartbroken.

He had always envisioned himself wearing the burnt orange, donning the horns emblazoned upon his sparkling-white helmet, and running up and down the 40 Acres making tackles.

But nine months ago, at least in the opinion of the Texas coaches he revered, Hughes wasn’t quite good enough.

After attending the Longhorns’ junior day, Harker Heights’ 6-foot-4, 215-pound linebacker was informed that, although he was an exceptional talent, Texas didn’t have a place for him as a member of its 2013 recruiting class.

Instead, Hughes was offered a grayshirt opportunity to sit a semester and collect dust while a spot was given to another linebacker the Texas coaches viewed as more appealing.

So he worked harder than he’s worked before. He went to the gym. He put in extra reps on the practice field. He took on more responsibility championing the Knights’ senior-laden defense, often matching up against the opposition’s top player and shutting him down.

The list of hits were all Division I prospects: Belton tight end Durham Smythe (former Texas commit), Shoemaker tailback Johnny Jefferson (Baylor), Temple quarterback Zach Allen (Syracuse), among others.

But this past weekend, while on his official visit to Texas, Hughes’ unflinching faith was rewarded as longtime Longhorns head coach Mack Brown sat down and informed him there was a place for him after all.

On Saturday, Texas awarded Hughes a full scholarship opportunity as a member of the 2013 recruiting class right beside his best friend, Knights offensive lineman Darius James, reuniting him with his older brother, Camrhon Hughes, a freshman offensive tackle who redshirted this season.

The generous offer came after bitter Big 12 nemesis Oklahoma tried to swoop in and snap Hughes up as part of a reported package deal with James — the nation’s No. 1 center prospect at 6-foot-7, 320 pounds — and possibly fellow Knights senior safety Tyrel Stokes.

Given his precarious situation with Texas’ grayshirt offer, who could blame Hughes for considering the Sooners’ full ride scholarship, which he did, at least for an hour.

But in the end, the appeal of the 40 Acres, and the memories of his youth, were too much to pass up — especially when the Longhorns coaches gave Hughes what he wanted all along — a chance to prove himself.

Finally, Hughes has his chance to run up and down Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium making tackles, just like he always dreamed.

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