The Mississippi Link Newswire
Jackson State University Director of Athletics Wheeler Brown announced the hiring of Tony Hughes as the football program’s 19th head coach during a Monday morning press conference in the Lee E. Williams Athletic and Assembly Center Hall of Fame Room.
“Today is a great day to be a Tiger,” said Brown. “Coach Hughes brings over 31 years of experience to the position and we expect great things from him and from our football program.”
Hughes, a Mississippi native, comes to Jackson State from Mississippi State University, where he spent seven seasons as a key member of the Bulldog football coaching staff. Hughes is known as one of the top recruiting coordinators in the nation.
In 2015, 247Sports.com tabbed him as one of America’s top 10 recruiters after Mississippi State hauled in one of the nation’s top 16 classes according to recruiting services. In the spring of 2013, he was named assistant head coach.
According to Rivals.com, the 22 National Letters of Intent MSU received on 2015 Signing Day made up the Bulldogs’ best since 2003. Fifteen of the signees hailed from Mississippi. Local recruiting will be a top priority for Hughes at Jackson State. He plans to focus on recruitment within a 150-mile radius of the university.
“We will recruit players from the state of Mississippi and the local Jackson area,” Hughes said. “I believe that there are enough players in the state, if we recruit right and evaluate right, every year we will field a great football team.”
“As soon as this press conference is over with, I’ll be on the phone making calls to get us some football players in here.”
Hughes takes over a Jackson State program that finished the 2015 season with a 3-8 overall record and a 3-6 Southwestern Athletic Conference mark.
“I’m telling you right now that I don’t have a magic wand in my pocket. I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t predict how many wins we will have but I know hard work, discipline and toughness. I know that formula works. When we put those ingredients together – honesty, treating women with respect and not using drugs and weapons and not stealing from each other – as the basic foundation of our program you will see a team that your are very proud of.”
“With all of us working together we can achieve success as we move forward. I’m proud to be here today and excited to be here today.”
Hughes has a knack for identifying players from Mississippi that go on to become NFL prospects. This is true of first-team All-American linebacker, Benardrick McKinney, who was once a two-star high school quarterback in Tunica before being drafted by the Houston Texans in 2015.
While at Mississippi State, Hughes developed the Bulldogs’ safeties corps into one of the Southeastern Conference’s hardest hitting units. Hughes is known for a hard nose defense. Following the 2014 Orange Bowl season, two of his safeties signed NFL free agent contracts, including his son Jay. This is a testimony to his development of Mississippi’s talent at the Division I level.
Hughes was named one of the top 25 college football recruiters in the nation by Rivals.com in 2006. His first two years at the University of Mississippi were spent tutoring the defensive backs while spending quality time with the tight ends.
He spent two seasons at Louisiana Technical University and spent 10 years coaching at Hinds Community College in Raymond where he served as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach. Hughes coached eight players who later went on to the NFL.
Before working at Hinds, Hughes’ first full-time coaching position on the collegiate level was at the University of West Alabama, where he coached from 1992-93. Hughes coached seven years in the Mississippi high school ranks, serving as offensive coordinator and running backs coach at Hattiesburg High School from 1988-91. He spent two seasons as the defensive secondary coach and boys track coach at South Natchez High School in 1986-87. His first high school coaching job was at Philadelphia High School in 1985.
Hughes served his country in the United States Marine Corps from 1981-84 and received and honorable discharge. He began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1984 working with the defensive backs. Hughes played football and ran track at Forest High School from 1974-76 and played defensive back at St. Paul’s College in 1976-66 and was a defensive back for the Southern Miss Eagles from 1977-78.
He earned his bachelor of arts degree in sociology in 1980. He is an active member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, serving as a member of the Mississippi FCA State Board of Directors in 1999, president of the Mississippi FCA Coaches Council in 1998 and vice-president of the Mississippi FCA Coaches Council in 1997.
Hughes is married to the former Marion McCaleb of Meridian and the couple has two sons, Jamison and Jay. Jay had the prestigious honor of being the only SEC football player to represent the league at the 2015 NCAA Convention.