"When Coach Brown told me that I had a full offer, and that I could come in June, I was so extremely happy," Naashon Hughes said. "I've been working toward that this whole season. It was great hearing that news."
In fact, Hughes said the prospect of turning his grayshirt offer into a full-fledged one served as a major motivator this year.
"That was definitely always in the back of my mind," Hughes said. "Winning came first. But that was always there."
And win Hughes, and Harker Heights, did. Despite playing the whole year without top lineman and fellow Texas commitment Darius James, the Knights made it into the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
"It was definitely losing a guy like Darius, who was the core of our offensive line. When you lose a guy like that, a lot goes with him," Hughes said. "But I was so glad we made the playoffs. I think I was in middle school the last time that happened. So that was great."
James was injured in the first half of the first game of the season and didn't return until the playoffs. But Hughes helped to offset his loss by leading a great defensive effort.
"I think I definitely got a lot stronger and faster," Hughes said. "But more than that, I was reading plays way faster.
"I was in a different spot this year," Hughes said. "Last year, I was kind of a roll-down free safety. This year I was more of a run-stopping player."
Hughes's dynamic skill set — at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, he runs a sub-4.5-second 40-yard dash — will likely have the Longhorns using him in a versatile role. Hughes said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has talked to him about being an outside linebacker who can pressure off the edge or who can cover receivers in the slot.
Hughes said getting the full offer put the cap on a great weekend. Duke Thomas was Hughes's host, and he said "we had a blast the whole time." Friday was the banquet, where Hughes said he "saw Kenny Vaccaro win all those awards," and the recruits stayed at the Four Seasons.
Saturday was Brown's breakfast, when all of the players met individually with the Longhorn head man, and the recruits took in meetings and practices before heading to Vince Young's Steakhouse Saturday night.
It was at the practice that Hughes said his offer sank in.
"We were watching them practice, and it just dawned on me," Hughes said. "You get to spend four more of your years here."