Oct. 18, 2011
- 2011 Game Day Central
- 2011 Fall Camp Central
- America Needs Farmers
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
- Iowa Football Wallpaper
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Danan Hughes played professional baseball and football after graduating from the University of Iowa, but it was the sport of wrestling that ultimately swayed him to become a Hawkeye.
One of the finest dual-sport athletes to attend the UI, Hughes recalls the integrity and truthfulness shown by coaches Hayden Fry (football) and Duane Banks (baseball) during his recruitment. And he was overwhelmed by the support for Hawkeye wrestling.
“When I came to visit, they took me right from the airport to Carver-Hawkeye Arena,” recalls Hughes. “Iowa was wrestling Iowa State, and I never paid attention to wrestling. The first thing I saw when I walked into Carver-Hawkeye Arena was standing room only. I said, `If they fill this place up for wrestling, I can only imagine how much they love football.’ I was sold at that point.”
Hughes, a native of Bayonne, N.J., played wide receiver for Fry and the Hawkeyes from 1988-92. He caught 146 passes for 2,216 yards and 21 touchdowns and remains third on the all-time receiving yardage list (behind Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Tim Dwight) and is tied with Dwight for the most receiving touchdowns (21). Hughes was named first-team All-Big Ten in 1991.
Current Hawkeye Marvin McNutt, Jr., has equaled the Hughes-Dwight record, hauling in a 35-yard scoring toss from James Vandenberg during a 41-31 win against Northwestern on Oct. 15 . That fact has led to some witty interview questions from Hughes, who now works as an analyst for the Big Ten Network, Missouri Valley Conference and Kansas City Chiefs.
“One of my questions to (UI head) coach (Kirk) Ferentz before the Tennessee Tech game in the pre-production meeting for the Big Ten Network was, `How are you going to win all the games this season and Marvin only score three touchdowns?’ Hughes said. “He shook his head, laughed and said, `That’s not going to happen.’
“When I came to visit, they took me right from the airport to Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa was wrestling Iowa State, and I never paid attention to wrestling. The first thing I saw when I walked into Carver-Hawkeye Arena was standing room only. I said, `If they fill this place up for wrestling, I can only imagine how much they love football.’ I was sold at that point.”
UI two-sport standout
“Records are meant to be broken; it’s something I’ve cherished for all these years. There is no better person or receiver that I would have wanted to break my record than Marvin. He’s a great gentleman, very humble and a mature young man.”
An outfielder in baseball, Hughes was selected in the third round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers. He played the 1992 and 1993 seasons for the Helena (Mont.) Brewers of the Pioneer League, finishing with a .300 batting average, two home runs and 26 RBI in 43 games. In three seasons for the Hawkeyes (1990-92), Hughes played 99 games, batted .318 with 11 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, 34 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He was third-team All-Big Ten in 1991.
Hughes was also chosen in the seventh round of the 1993 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He played there from 1993-98, catching 46 passes for 425 yards and four touchdowns.
“I liked hitting people more than baseballs,” Hughes gave as a reason for the professional switch. “Baseball was my first love, but in 1993 I felt like a football player: my aggression, my attitude, my competitiveness; everything was about combat.”
Hughes and his wife, Tifanni, had four children when his NFL career ended. Instead of attempting a comeback with baseball, Hughes retired from professional sports in 1999 and began working for US Bank in home mortgage. His primary clients are professional athletes and entertainers. Hughes didn’t turn his back on baseball altogether: for the past eight years he has coached a competitive traveling baseball club.
In December of 1992, Hughes received a bachelor’s degree from the UI in broadcasting and communications. Because of his commitment to Hawkeye athletics, Hughes didn’t have much time to hone his craft as a broadcast journalist while he was a student-athlete.
“I was being groomed in being the interviewee,” Hughes said.
While playing for the Chiefs, Hughes became indoctrinated into the world of broadcasting through a weekly radio show on Metro Sports. Now he broadcasts between 16-20 baseball games, 10-12 football games and has a postgame show for every Chiefs game beginning in preseason.
Balancing family and more than one job is nothing new to Hughes. He was forced to be organized, disciplined and utilize time-management at the UI.
“The crazy thing is, I never had a break in high school, so it was a normal transition for me to do football and baseball (in college),” Hughes said. “It helped keep me on track. I had to be on top of my academics all year round in order to be eligible all year round. There was never a lull, and it worked as a benefit to have that structure.”
This is what Hughes remembers most about his days as a Hawkeye:
“Coach Fry and coach Banks were huge mentors in my life,” Hughes said. “Those guys promised to allow me an opportunity to play and be a part of their programs, and they lived up to it. The integrity they displayed is the epic of my experience as a Hawkeye: to know that I had two coaches behind me that were truthful is the greatest part of me ever being a Hawkeye.”
This is what Hawkeye fans remember most about Hughes:
On Nov. 23, 1991, Iowa finished a 10-win regular season with a 23-8 victory over Minnesota in Kinnick Stadium. Snow was on the ground and after the first of his two touchdown receptions, Hughes slid to his back in the end zone and made a snow angel.
“I did a lot of antics, I had a lot of dances,” Hughes said. “I had a lot of touchdowns, and I think I did some kind of dance or something stupid for each one of them. It’s funny to be remembered for a fun situation that happened in a game we won. It’s funny to my family and kids, and I treasure it.”
The Hawkeyes received berths to the 1991 Rose Bowl (Hughes was a sophomore) and the 1991 Holiday Bowl (his junior season). As a senior in 1992, the Hawkeyes played one of the toughest schedules in the country with nonconference games against North Carolina State, Miami (Fla.) and Colorado. With a record of 5-6, the Hawkeyes needed a win at Minnesota to go to a third consecutive bowl. They lost, 28-13.
In hindsight, that setback didn’t work out too badly for Hughes.
“That was the first time I went home for Christmas,” Hughes said. “That’s when I met my wife back in New Jersey on Christmas break.”
Hughes, who resides in the Kansas City area and turns 41 in December, has five children (daughters Jessicah, Savana and Talyn and sons Joey and Taurin). Jessicah has a two-year old daughter, Daryn.