Tonawanda News — Tyler Hughes made a positive impression right off the bat.
As a slightly built sophomore, he walked into the first day of Tonawanda High School football practice in the summer of 2010.
By the time Hughes left the field that day, coach Rob Gross knew he had a keeper.
“He had very good feet and great athletic ability, and we thought he could contribute right away,” Gross said. “He’s a tough guy — you could see that he could take a hit and still gain yards. It was just obvious that he’d be starting for us.”
Hughes is the first to admit there was a learning curve, as a 10th-grader playing varsity football — but he understands that the experience has made him much stronger.
“The first year, the game was so fast — it was being played at a different level than I had ever seen, and it was overwhelming,” Hughes said. “Then as you get some games under your belt, it gets easier.”
Now, three years later as a senior, it’s almost impossible to get Hughes off of the field.
He’s the team’s starting running back and one of its starting cornerbacks. He returns punts and kicks, and he even is the holder on PATs.
“I just do whatever coach needs me to do for the team,” Hughes said. “The game situation dictates what we need.”
On top of all of that, Hughes has emerged as one of the team’s key leaders.
“He’s a natural leader on the field,” Gross said. “He has a great feel for the game because of his experience. As a running back, his vision is a tremendous asset. He sees the field well beyond the point of attack. As a cornerback, he understands running routes and the techniques needed to defend against them.”