Starting your first varsity football game is nerve-wracking enough for most teenagers, but how about making that start on national television against the defending state champions? Indianapolis Cathedral junior quarterback Kofi Hughes did just that earlier this year, when his team took on Carmel.
Although Carmel would come away with a narrow 28-21 victory, Hughes still had a nice debut, rushing for 159 yards and one touchdown and passing for another. That game caught the attention of the Indiana coaches, who discussed the game with Hughes on his unofficial visit to Bloomington.
“Basically, they were asking me about the game I had,” he said, “That’s what they knew me by, the kid on ESPN in the Carmel game. They said they would have liked to see me in the second half and it was tough that I got cramps. I told them it was my first football game ever and I’m still trying to get better.”
Hughes says the last time he had played an organized game before that day was in 7th grade. As a freshman at Lawrence North High School, Hughes made the varsity team, but upon realizing that would interfere with his hoop dreams, he had to give up football.
“When I was at Lawrence North, my freshman year, I played varsity football for Jack Kiefer. I don’t want to say this about him, but he said you can’t play two sports, basketball players are basketball players and are committed to basketball. I found out I wasn’t allowed to play, so I transferred to Cathedral my sophomore year and he signed it so I couldn’t play varsity for 365 days.”
Hence, the 6’2, 185-lb Hughes did not play football a year ago and had to play on the junior varsity for basketball. After all that had happened, he nearly gave up football.
“I didn’t even think about playing football,” he admitted, “but a lot of my friends were encouraging me to play. Once I was on varsity and had good relationships with the coaches, I felt like I like football a lot. It feels good, it might be one of my primary sports.”
Hughes admits that basketball is still his first love and says Indiana, Illinois, Michigan State, Southern Illinois, Indiana State and Butler are all showing him interest for hoops. He has however, also received interest from some of those same schools for his gridiron prowess.
“My major interest is probably from Indiana, Illinois, Purdue and I got a couple letters from Stanford and Wisconsin. Those are the only main ones; I’ve been to Illinois and Indiana for unofficial visits this year.”
Hughes actually was in Champaign last week and watched the Indiana and Illinois play one another as well as get his first look at the Illini campus.
“It’s awesome, it was a tremendous facility,” he said, “it’s crazy, their weight room is decked out. I saw the campus; I walked around with some of the Cathedral coaches. I really liked it.”
Even with the fine visit to Illinois, for this Indiana native, there still was nothing quite like home.
“At Indiana, I still felt more comfortable. I’ve been a Hoosier boy all my life, my parents graduated from there and at Illinois, I didn’t really meet the coaching staff. At Indiana, we sat in a lounge and talked to every coach. At the same time, Indiana only about had about four or five kids invited, at Illinois, they had 40-50.”
With Cathedral currently at 6-2 and sectionals about to get under way, recruiting and basketball for that matter, are currently not in the forefront for Hughes. At some point, he may have to again make a decision about giving up a sport, but for now, he is happy playing both and keeping the door open for being a two sport star in college. Can he do it?
“We’ll see after basketball season.”