GAINESVILLE, Fla. – His new office remains a work in progress.
The same can be said of Florida’s 2014 recruiting class.
Drew Hughes is more concerned about National Signing Day right now than adding a personal touch to his unadorned workspace inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
“There are no hours,’’ Hughes said. “You go until the job is done.”
At 26, the fresh-faced Hughes joined Gators coach Will Muschamp’s staff last month as director of player personnel, replacing Jon Haskins. Since graduating from Alabama in 2011 with an education degree, Hughes has earned a master’s in football.
Actually, he began work on that master’s prior to starting his undergraduate work.
Hughes grew up in Montgomery, Ala., as the oldest of five siblings. He was a two-way player in football – receiver and safety – and a shooting guard once basketball season tipped off.
“Competition is something I grew up around,’’ Hughes said.
Once he finished high school, Hughes had some interest from smaller schools to continue his playing career. Instead, he opted to attend Alabama.
Hughes knew the only way he was going to be on the football field was as a member of the Crimson Tide’s support staff.
So the first chance he got, Hughes stopped by the football offices.
“I started literally from the bottom,’’ Hughes said. “I volunteered, I videoed practice, and then I started bugging the GAs [graduate assistants] to come in and help them break down tape. From there, I went into the recruiting office, and when I got into the recruiting office, it just clicked.”
Hughes had found his niche.
On-campus recruiting, evaluating players and watching film all added up to another science credit in Hughes’ view.
“I loved it,’’ he said. “To me the science of building a team is fascinating. And the blueprint is different. It was different at Central Florida. It was different at N.C. State, and it’s going to be different here.”
Hughes worked in the football office throughout his time at Alabama under former Crimson Tide director of player personnel Ed Marynowitz, who is now assistant director of pro scouting for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Hughes was working on his true master’s degree when UCF coach George O’Leary called at the suggestion of Marynowitz, who worked at UCF prior to Alabama.
O’Leary needed a director of player personnel and Hughes took the job. During Hughes’ time in Orlando, the Knights signed several of the players that led UCF to a 12-1 season and No. 10 ranking in the final AP Top 25 poll on Tuesday.
He left UCF last year for N.C. State, where he joined Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren’s staff as director of player personnel.
Hughes was young and his career on the fast track. He also had a vision.
While assisting Nick Saban’s staff at Alabama, Hughes got to know some mutual acquaintances of Muschamp's. He didn’t know Muschamp personally, but from afar, Hughes envisioned teaming with him one day.
“He’s a guy that I’ve always really wanted to see myself work with,’’ Hughes said. “I’m a competitor just like he is. And being able to learn from him and see how he runs an organization and the evaluation and building a team from a personnel standpoint, I was really fired up about it.”
Since his hiring on Dec. 20, Hughes has focused primarily on ways to help the coaching staff close out a strong recruiting class on National Signing Day Feb. 5.
He is also trying to learn as much as he can about Florida’s current roster to identify future needs.
He described his job this way: “Identifying the players that can come in and help us win championships, and [developing] the process of doing that, and relating it and being a right-hand man to every coach on staff – because ultimately that’s what I’m here to do, to help the coaches – if I can make their jobs easier from a recruiting standpoint, that’s what I’m here to do.”
Hughes said technology has made information gathering in recruiting easier than ever. You can learn so much about players simply by Googling them and watching video.
Still, he said there must be a personal connection built during what is viewed more and more as a technical process.
“Something I hope that doesn’t become a lost art is just getting to know them, spending time with them – not just them but their family,’’ he said. “Part of the process is bringing good kids into your program. That’s just as important as the football part.”
During his time at Alabama the Crimson Tide won a pair of national titles. The experience opened his eyes to the importance of attention to detail. Everybody had a specific job and specific role.
He is on a mission to fulfill his at Florida.
In the process, Hughes hopes to be able to help another young football junkie find his calling the way Marynowitz helped him.
“I want to be around football people doing football things all the time,’’ he said. “I’m getting in a position where I can start helping other people. There are always going to be younger guys coming through. Starting from the bottom and working my way up, I really appreciate the guys who do the grunt work so to speak.”