Nov. 22, 2011
LOGAN, Utah -
By Megan Allen / USU Athletic Media Relations
When you are the third quarterback on the depth chart of a Division I football team, you understand and accept the fact that you probably aren't going to see very many reps in a game. The hard part can be keeping a positive attitude and maintaining interest and dedication for the game.
Taylor Hughes came to Utah State this August as a walk-on, after playing quarterback at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif. He knew the odds of seeing time on the field was low, but did it for the love of the game.
"The coaches called me and said they had a walk-on spot available and I could have it if I wanted it. It was really random, but really awesome," said Hughes, a senior from Corona Del Mar, Calif. "I'd been on the beach, just relaxing. I had no plans of playing football. Then that phone call changed things."
While Northern Utah and Southern California are two very different locations and lifestyles, Hughes said he adjusted quickly. It didn't take very long to feel comfortable in Logan.
"All the people here were way cool, which was kind of surprising to me even though everyone in California told me that would happen," Hughes said. "I've only been here for three months and already know everyone on the team."
Being the backup quarterback is more than just showing up and sitting on the bench, wearing the hat.
"When you're the backup, you have to be supportive even though you're not actually playing," Hughes said. "You have to go through it all mentally, and help the guys out when they need it."
"I'm in all the meetings with the starting quarterbacks. It doesn't matter if I'm the backup or I'm playing, I'm still doing all the work," Hughes said. "I have to learn the protections and everything about the offense."
The constant work and preparation continues on the field during games. While he is on the sideline, he keeps up with the game, paying attention to both sides of the line of scrimmage, offering whatever help he can to his teammates.
"I'm constantly getting questioned by Coach Wells (USU quarterbacks coach Matt Wells) about all the plays and things going on. I just have to be on my toes, ready for that moment," Hughes said.
He spends time in the meeting rooms, watching film with the team, focusing on the safeties and defensive actions the opposing teams may be planning against the quarterbacks.
"Coach Wells has us look for the safeties and the coverages for the first couple of series so we can help the quarterback out," Hughes said. "Sometimes from the field you don't see everything, but on the sidelines you can focus in on them and their defense."
It's a lot of hard work, that some may not see paying off. However, Hughes said he feels good about where he is at with his life and his football career.
"I love football, that's why I'm still playing. I wasn't even planning on being on a team this year. It's a blessing to come out here and play at a Division I college," Hughes said. "It's just a love for the game. It's not something I want to give up. The games are pretty exciting, so that helps as well."
By staying faithful to the Aggies and his team and putting in the time and effort he does, there have been many lessons he has learned that will carry over into life after college and after football.
"I've learned loyalty. I've learned to be supportive," Hughes said. "There are definitely leadership skills that come from playing quarterback."
Those leadership qualities came in handy at Orange Coast College and were well-executed in Hughes' time as quarterback and team captain. He was named to the Southern California Football Association (SCFA) all-conference team after he threw for 1,992 yards and 17 touchdowns in just nine games.
"We had a pretty good season my second year at OCC. I had a lot of fun with it," Hughes said. "We went 4-0 to start, but then 0-6 to end the season and kind of blew some games. They were close, kind of like the ones we've had here."
In high school in California, he set several school records including most completions in a game (25), most passing yards (2,289), most total offense yards (2,452), and the highest completion percentage (59.5). He was named the Pacific League Offensive Player of the year for his yardage and 22 touchdowns.
After his second season at OCC, Hughes was out for six months recovering from an appendix surgery.
"It was three times the size of a normal appendix. I'd gone in for a CAT scan and when they saw it they immediately sent me to the emergency room," Hughes said. "They had me out, no physical activity for six months."
As a senior, Hughes is working hard to end his football career on a high note. He puts in his time and hard work in practice and on the sidelines, giving everything he can to Utah State football.
"I plan on getting better every day, whether that's on the field or in the classroom or wherever. I want to get my grades up, throw better balls," Hughes said. "I had kind of been taking a break after I left junior college, I thought I was done. Now I'm still a little rusty, but getting better. I just want to continue to get better every day."
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