"I checked my phone after I got out of the shower and I had something like 32 messages," Hughes said after Saturday's Gold-Blue game, in which he became the sixth consecutive West Virginia native to earn the award. "I haven't had the chance to listen or respond to any of them yet, so I am looking forward to that."
Hughes certainly deserves at least a bit of notice for the outstanding job he has done in progressing from walk-on to West Virginia's starting long snapper -- a job that he has performed without flaw. Head coach Bill Stewart noted as much in his post game comments, but the standout moment from Hughes came before the game when he heard his name announced as the award winner.
"I wasn't expecting it, I can tell you that," he said of his thoughts when he, along with his teammates and the 20,000+ fans in attendance heard his name called. "As I was jogging out onto the field I was trying to keep a serious face, but the close I got to Coach Stewart, the more I started smiling. I just couldn't believe it. I was just so thrilled to have this award. To be considered with all the other great players who have received this award is just so special. To have my name on a plaque with Tommy Nickolich -- I know his whole story -- that's really special."
For Hughes, like most walk-ons, there are thousands of hours of work that rarely result in any public acknowledgment. From conditioning to practice to classroom and community service, players put in untold time and effort, with almost all of it in anonymity. So, when the spotlight does shine briefly, they are very appreciative of it.
"To know that all the hard work that you've put in in the weight room and in the classroom and in the community is being recognized, it really is an honor," the appreciative Hughes said. "It means so much to me."
Hughes certainly doesn't begrudge the more visible stars of the team their time in the spotlight. As a walk-on, and then manning a position that only gets noticed when errors occur, he understands that today's star-making media is going to be drawn to the offensive playmakers and defensive big hitters. That didn't stop him, however, from focusing on becoming the best he could be at his position.
"Coming in, I knew I was going to have to sell myself out 100% of the time," he said of his outlook at the start of his collegiate career. "I knew I was going to have to work hard all the time. I had to expect the best and work the hardest. The change of pace kind of hit me off guard a little but at first, but once I got adjusted to that, I was able to put my nose to the grindstone and work hard every day."
That attitude wasn't a surprise to Stewart.
"Adam is a typical West Virginian. He's a hard-working, blue collar guy. I didn't know if we would be able to replace [former long snapper] Tim Lindsey] but he stepped right in and didn't miss a beat."
Now that the Princeton, W.Va. native has had his moment in the sun, would he like to stay there? The answer, perhaps not surprisingly, is a resounding no.
"I don't want to be known by anybody," Hughes said, with apparent equal parts of both seriousness and humor. "If I go out and someone asks me if I'm on the football team and I say yes, and they ask me what position I play and I say long snapper, I want them to say 'What's that?' That makes me feel good, because then I know I'm doing my job. I know the ball is getting back there the way it should, and that I'm not getting noticed."
The Blue & Gold News is proud to present the Tommy Nickolich Award to the walk-on member of the Mountaineer football team who has distinguished himself with his attitude and effort. Following is a list of the past award winners.
|PAST NICKOLICH AWARD WINNERS|