By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
Football's no longer just about fun for Camrhon Hughes.
As he prepares to take the plunge into big time Division I football next week, the 6-foot-7, 305-pound offensive lineman from Harker Heights took a little time to enjoy himself in his final act as a high schooler.
Calling the experience an "honor," Hughes closed out his prep career in style, participating in the inaugural Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl game Tuesday from Phoenix.
"That last moment or two (of practice), it became like a job job, and I (knew) I had to start working hard for it," said the University of Texas-committed left tackle. "So I went out there and basically gave it my all. I did pretty good I think."
Of course, it wasn't all business. During the days leading up to the game, the players had opportunities to attend the Insight Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl, where they helped unroll the national flag during pregame festivities, and even went to the Arizona Cardinals season finale on Sunday.
"The most fun was just being with all the other players from all over the place," Hughes said.
In the game Tuesday, Hughes' East squad fell to its West counterparts 17-14 at Chase Field. The event, which included 100 of the nation's elite prospects, was put on by JuniorRank Sports and the United States Marine Corps.
"Everybody is 'that guy' where they come from, so the competition was pretty stiff, but it was (also) pretty even," Hughes said. "If our kicker had gotten a chance to kick a field goal, it would probably still be going on, because it was that close."
It is just the latest in a series of national showcase events for highly-touted prep recruits, joining the Under Armour High School All-American Game on Thursday, which featured a pair of heavily-recruited Longhorn pledges in tailback Johnathan Gray of Aledo and quarterback Connor Brewer of Chaparral (Ariz.), and the prestigious U.S. Army All-American Bowl to be played Saturday on NBC.
In the Semper Fidelis Bowl, Hughes said he remembered giving up one tackle and registering eight pancakes while playing the entire game at left tackle due an injury to Wisconsin-committed tackle J.J. Denham of Pennsbury (Pa.).
"Because of how we do it down here (at Heights), I was already prepared to play the whole game, so I just stayed in at left tackle while everybody else kept rotating out," Hughes said. "It worked out pretty good."
One of his biggest foils in the event was four-star defensive end DeForest Buckner of Punahou School (Hawaii), a 6-7, 230-pounder committed to Oregon.
Having already graduated from Harker Heights on Dec. 16 - his 18th birthday - Hughes plans to move to the Austin campus next Thursday in preparations for UT's spring practices beginning Feb. 24.
"I'm lifting weights and everything, but I'm basically trying to get mentally prepared for spring training camp," Hughes said. "As long as I can stay positive through that, the whole time I'll be there will be (enjoyable). Everybody's told me (spring training) is the hardest part."
Of course, he wasn't alone during his time in Phoenix.
Just a sophomore at Heights, tailback Marcus Anderson II was one of three Knights underclassman - along with junior defensive backs Naashon Hughes, the younger brother of Camrhon, and Tyrel Stokes - to be counted among the approximately 300 participants in the National Proving Ground Combine on Monday.
"It was different, something I ain't never done before," Anderson said.
The combine was modeled after the NFL's annual pre-draft combine in Indianapolis.
"I liked the different variety (of players), it showed me how much I need to work to get better (compared to) the other (top recruits)," said Anderson, who ran a 4.79 seconds in the 40-yard dash. "These kids are nation-wide and I'm only in Texas, so I liked seeing all the rest of the (players), it was fun."
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or (254) 501-7566.