KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When Mike Hughes was selected with the 30th pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, fans of the Minnesota Vikings expected big things from the ball hawking cornerback from the University of Central Florida. He got off to a good start with Minnesota, with an interception returned for a touchdown in his first game, finishing the season with 20 tackles, but a torn ACL ended his impressive rookie season in week six.
Returning from injury in 2019, he made 45 tackles and was involved in five turnovers as a rotational cornerback. Then again in 2020, he was hit with another major injury, a cervical neck injury that caused him to miss twelve of the Vikings’ games and limited him to just 13 tackles.
In May of 2021, the Vikings traded Hughes alongside a 2022 seventh round pick for a 2022 sixth round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs. Kansas City fans got an immediate impact from Hughes with two tackles and a game sealing interception against the Cleveland Browns in week one. He continued to perform well as a rotational cornerback, earning six starts, including this weekend’s blowout playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, recording two tackles as Kansas City won 42 to 21.
This is the first season that Hughes hasn’t missed time with injury, and it’s shown as he’s recorded 49 tackles and been involved in six turnovers, including a fumble recovery that was returned for a touchdown that started a 48 to 9 rout of the Las Vegas Raiders.
Hughes’ college career was also a journey of revival. In October of 2015, he was suspended from the University of North Carolina football team after misdemeanor assault charges were lobbied against him following an incident earlier that month. That led to him leaving the program and joining junior college, Garden City Community College in Garden City, Kan. where he recorded 47 tackles, three punt return touchdowns, and two interceptions. He chose to enroll at UCF after his one year in community college, choosing the Knights over schools like Auburn, East Carolina, and TCU.
In Orlando, Fla. he became an immediate impact starter, starting 12 games and being named to the All-American Second Team. At UCF he recorded 49 tackles and four interceptions, including a 57 yard interception return for a touchdown, sealing a 38 to 10 victory over the University of Maryland.
Hughes then played his best game of his entire career against hated rival South Florida, intercepting a pass from South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers to close out the first half with UCF in the lead. Then with just over a minute and a half left in the game and the game tied, he took a kickoff and returned it 95 yards for the game winning touchdown, keeping UCF undefeated.
Now Hughes and Kansas City prepare for a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship game, as they host fellow UCF alum Gabriel Davis and the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at 6:30 PM on CBS. The two teams met earlier in the season, with Hughes only playing 18 defensive snaps in the game, and Buffalo beating Kansas City 38 to 20. Will Hughes’ insertion into the starting lineup spark or will Davis continue his hot form?
For more on Davis blossoming onto the national scene as a star receiver, read Brian Smith’s article: Former UCF WR Gabriel Davis Making Waves With Buffalo Bills.