After early success, Tonawanda’s Hughes patiently waits turn
But a player who can accept, and excel, in whatever role he is given is nothing short of priceless. Tyler “Doc” Hughes is one such player.
Now in his third season of varsity with the Tonawanda Warriors football team, Hughes came into this season with the experience of 19 varsity games under his belt. Something that comes in handy as he reassumed the role of No.1 running back this year.
“Having 19 games, it just feels like it comes natural now,” Hughes said of the flow of the game.
Making varsity as a sophomore, Hughes was the Warriors’ primary ball carrier that year. Flourishing in that role, Hughes rang up more rushing yardage than anyone else on the Warriors. But when Tonawanda coach Rob Gross reflected on Hughes’ play it isn’t the yards gained that impresses the Warriors coach the most.
“(It’s) his toughness,” Gross said. “His sophomore year he took a pounding, but he always got up. He never questioned his role and I think the things he learned as a sophomore really helped prepare him not only for last year, but this year. To carry the football the amount of times he has in his career, you have to be tough. And he’s a tough, dedicated young man. He’s easy to coach.”
Along with praising Hughes’ hard-nosed approach to the game, Gross added that the combination of Hughes’ experience and football I.Q., allows the coaches to make high level adjustments to their offensive scheme, because they know their senior back can handle whatever is thrown his way.
Despite a stellar sophomore year, Hughes saw his role change as a junior when good friend, Justin Bacon, transferred back to Tonawanda High School after playing at North Tonawanda. With Bacon back in maroon and white, Hughes had his role as a runner somewhat scaled back.
But Gross said Hughes handled the change in roles with maturity. He put the needs of the team first and did whatever was asked of him.
“I give Tyler tremendous credit because he got the bulk of the carries as a sophomore,” Gross said. “Then as a junior, the number of times we gave him the ball decreased, because we had (Bacon), who could also run the ball very well. He never complained. He never said he should be getting the ball more.
Gross said Highes was simply more interested in winning and knew a heavy workload for Bacon would help give the team that opportunity.
“Tyler is the example of someone that has done everything right in this program,” Gross noted. “He’s been here from the start for the three years that I’ve been here. When I look back it’s guys like Tyler who are the reason things are going in a new direction.”
Instead of complaining, Hughes embraced the chance to play along side and learn from an outstanding player like Bacon.
“Just being dedicated in the offseason a lot more,” Hughes said of the lessons learned from Bacon. “And running hard even if there’s nothing there. Just keep your head down and keep digging.”
The epitome of a good teammate, Hughes knows that seniors have a duty to the program. Hughes pays-it-forward by giving younger players the benefit of the experience to help make them better.
“I just feel like having that experience, I should know more and I should share it with other players,” Hughes explained. “You have got to help the young guys out and pass on everything that you know so that when they have a chance, whether I go down or they get a chance in the game, they’re doing the best they can and know the most about it.”
Ironically enough, Bacon also influenced Hughes’ high school career by being the inspiration behind his nickname “Doc.”
“It was kind of just a self made one,” Hughes said with a smile. “Because we had Justin Bacon (calling himself) Marty from Back To The Future. So I just figured (I’d be) Doc (Brown). Those are my favorite movies.”