MACON, Miss. (WCBI Sports) - Some athletes have the stars align and their journey to join the professional ranks seems like destiny. Drawing attention in high school, they’re recruited to the best colleges and fly into the pros with high expectations.
For Macon native Nate Hughes, the road to top wasn’t paved with attention, over-the-top talent or his name being called on NFL draft day.
Nate Hughes attended Starkville high school and grew up in Macon. He comes back to the area to host his annual camp for kids in Noxubee County.
His journey to the pros is something everyone can admire. Hughes starred at Alcorn State, which is isn’t in college football’s top division. He wasn’t drafted in the NFL and has spent time on and off the NFL roster of five teams for the last five years.
“It’s a blessing, especially undrafted,” Hughes said. “It’s so much harder to find a niche as an undrafted guy unless you’re some big-time freak of nature. A guy from a small-town school, a little small DI-AA school, it kind of felt good to make it.”
Two-time Super Bowl Champion Lawrence Pillars also went to Alcorn State.
“Coming from a small college and going up against all those colleges with the big names, we tried to prove to them that we are just as talented,” Pillars said. “We might even have more talent than those large universities because we had to work on ours even a little harder.”
Hughes has played in a limited number of games in the NFL. But has scored a few touchdowns.
“I kept all three touchdown balls I’ve ever had. They’re at home on the fireplace,” Hughes said.
But he’s going from hitting the weights to hitting the books, as he looks to get into medical school. Hughes is retiring from football and is taking the MCATs this week.
“I focused a lot on football but every day I would at least read a little bit, dealing with the human body, dealing with medicine, to prepare myself because every offseason I worked as a nurse,” Hughes said.
He’s is working as a traveling nurse now in San Antonio, Texas.
“There are definitely similarities between going to med school and playing in the NFL. If you’re not fortunate enough to be one of the super fast, super talented guys who went to the SEC, it’s the same thing,” Hughes said. “It’s the same thing applying to med school if you didn’t go to a big-time Harvard or big-time Johns Hopkins for undergrad.”
Trading shoulder pads for scrubs, it will be another battle against the odds for Hughes.
“Yes, I actually think I perform at my best when I am the underdog,” Hughes said.