For seniors Naashon Hughes and Poona Ford, one a Texan and another a South Carolinian, their lives were linked together through the sport of football. Hughes was recruited to Texas by Mack Brown, while Ford was a late addition to Charlie Strong’s first class at Texas.
Going into their final season wearing burnt orange and white, both were selected by their teammates to lead the team on the field as captains. At one point, there was a chance that their lives would be linked, but with different rankings than captain.
Ford was thought to be undersized as a football player, and nearly decided to drop football altogether heading into his senior year.
“At that point I kind of lost hope of going on to the next level,” Ford said. “I was about to get ready to go in the army but then they hired a new coach. Coach sat down and talked to me. He told me I was going to play in a 3-technique. He told me if I trusted him he would get me to where I wanted to be. So I trusted him.”
Ford took over the 3-technique spot for the Hilton Head football team, and the offers began to roll in prior to his senior season.
Hughes comes from Harker Heights, a short drive on Interstate 14 from the Fort Hood military complex in Killeen. When asked about Ford’s possible military career, Hughes explained he had brought it up with Ford previously.
“Poona and I actually talked about it when we both got here,” Hughes said. “I’m from a military family so both of us would have probably known each other in another life if we didn’t play football. Both of us would have joined the Marines as well.”
Instead of fighting foreign enemies, they’ll just be playing football this Saturday against the Maryland Terrapins, leading the Longhorns onto the field.
Ford, as Tom Herman has mentioned multiple times, is more of a quiet, ‘lead by example’ type player. Because of this, his word means something in the Texas locker room.
“He talks every now and then, he talks when he needs to I would say,” Hughes said. “He doesn’t talk as much on the field when we are doing drills. I guess that’s why people say he is less vocal. But your work and work ethic, people see that regardless of what you’re saying. I think a lot of teammates and a lot of the people here notice that about Poona that he goes to work each and every day. That’s why they named him captain as well.”
Per his billing, Ford was a man of few words when asked what the title meant to him.
“It was just an honor that I was voted amongst my peers as being one of the leaders on this team,” Ford said. “I’m going to do my best to lead us to victory.”
Hughes noted it was thanks to a lot of effort.
“That’s just a tribute from my teammates just seeing that I have been working my ass off since the beginning of the summer,” Hughes said. “P.J. (Locke), Poona (Ford), and Connor (Williams) as well. Seeing how they took that and then said ‘ok, I want these guys to lead me’ was a great deal of respect for me and my teammates.”
Ford said this week they’ve been able to prepare for the Terrapins’ running quarterback, Tyrrell Pigrome, by defending against running back turned scout team quarterback Tristian Houston.
“Everyone’s just doing their job being where they’re supposed to be at the right time and place,” Ford said. “That’s going to help us a lot as far as containing him and not let him get outside.”
Hughes echoed that, saying the defense was ready to show what the group had worked on over the offseason.
“Basically, us flying around making plays here and there,” Hughes said. “The leadership we have been working on and the family and close knit group that we have made over the course of the past nine months, I expect to see that a lot.”