Most college quarterbacks who transfer to a new program only to be third on the depth chart don’t have the most confidence in the world. Hank Hughes is different. After never touching the field in two seasons at Texas A&M, the sophomore came to Ball State to play.
“I bring a different kind of swagger coming from a school like Texas A&M,” Hughes said. “I understand what it means to play big-time football.”
Confidence and swagger are two things Hughes does not lack. In fact, Ball State head coach Mike Neu said he and the coaching staff noticed that Hughes had a little something extra to him when he first arrived in Muncie for spring practices.
“He likes to talk a little bit of noise, in the right way,” Neu said. “I think our defensive guys were caught off guard maybe the first time it happened. Like, ‘Wait a minute, what did he just say right there?’ … That’s been fun to see, and they’ve embraced that.”
Redshirt junior Riley Neal and redshirt sophomore Drew Plitt are currently ahead of Hughes on the depth chart. Neu said Hughes has done a good job learning the offense and adjusting to the new system, but he just doesn’t have the experience of the other quarterbacks.
“He knows the quarterback room is competitive,” Neu said. “He’s a competitive guy, and I think he’ll embrace the competition throughout the rest of the spring.”
Plitt said having Hughes around has been a good thing and has helped in the development process.
“Everybody’s got to be on top of their game because everybody’s good and pushing each other,” Plitt said. “He’s just another guy trying to do what I’m trying to do and get that starting job. We’re all competing for the same thing.”
Competition is in Hughes’s blood. He grew up as the youngest of six, and two of his brothers also played collegiate sports. Hughes said watching his brother Rush play football at SMU was the beginning of his dream to play college football.
Hughes had multiple offers out of high school, but growing up in Richardson, Texas, he chose to pursue the dream of following up Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. Hughes joined the team as a preferred walk-on but never got the chance to play in two seasons.
“When A&M asked me to come on board, that was a dream come true,” Hughes said. “But then I realized if I really want to play and pursue my dream of playing college football, I should probably go somewhere where I’m going to get that opportunity.”
Hughes said he loved the idea of coming to Ball State because he wouldn’t have to sit out a year. He loved the coaching staff, and the team made him feel welcome during his official visit.
Hughes is third-string right now, but Neu said having an abundance of quarterbacks is never a bad thing, especially after having to use four due to injuries last season.
“Every quarterback knows only one guy can play,” Neu said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s a true statement that you are one play away, and you always have to be ready.”
For now, Hughes waits for his opportunity, but he is more than confident he will be prepared when his time comes.
“I’m just going to keep working, keep my head down and make sure I’m doing everything right,” Hughes said. “Whenever my number’s called, whenever that may be, I’ll be ready.”