May 11, 2011
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Growing up five minutes from New York City, Danan Hughes did not know much about Iowa City, Iowa, but he sure is glad he took a look. When former head coach Hayden Fry and the Hawkeyes came calling, the New Jersey native knew Iowa City and the University of Iowa was the choice.
"I knew it was right for me on my recruiting visit and during my first semester," said Hughes, "It is hard to put into words the impact the University of Iowa has had on my life. It proved to be the best decision that I made in my life."
Hughes became a two-sport athlete at Iowa, excelling in both baseball and football. He was an all-Big Ten honoree in both, playing outfield and wide receiver. He played in the Milwaukee Brewers organization before beginning a lengthy professional football career with the Kansas City Chiefs. For Hughes, Iowa City and the University of Iowa is where it all started.
Hughes lettered in football from 1989-92 and played under Fry, Iowa's legendary coach.
"I remember Coach Fry coming in to my home in New Jersey, cowboy boots and all, and telling me about all the opportunities at the University of Iowa," said Hughes, who led Iowa in receiving in 1991 and 1992. "The best compliment that I could ever give another man is that he had my respect, 100 percent. At a time, when he could have just been a salesman, he was honest, and he lived up to every promise.
"Coach Fry was very influential in how he approached treating student-athletes. He helped me grow into the person I have become. A lot of athletes have too many people in their ear trying to coach them. One of his greatest attributes, you can tell by his coaching tree, is that he knew how to coach his staff to lead his players. To hear about that is one thing; to be a part of it and to watch it is a whole different thing."
Hughes also lettered in baseball from 1990-92 under another legendary Hawkeye coach, Duane Banks.
"Coach Banks, I love him dearly," said Hughes, who led Iowa in stolen bases in 1991. "He was a great coach and a great mentor to me; he was very supportive. I only played three years, but his involvement meant a lot to me. We have always kept in contact."
Hughes serves as a color commentator for the Big Ten Network, and worked Iowa's game last Saturday at Duane Banks Field. For Hughes, the chance to visit Iowa City is always a special occasion.
"Going back to Iowa City never gets old," said Hughes. "Every time I visit, whether I get to hang out with a couple of former teammates or visit with UI staff, it never gets old. I built quality relationships during my time there that are lifetime relationships. That is quality in itself.
"Everyone stops and has truly genuine conversations. I am not some big booster; they do not have any reason to do that, except because of the relationships. That is the refreshing thing that I love about Iowa."
For Hughes, this is unique.
"Many schools are about getting players in and getting them out and figuring out who is going to fill the next role," said Hughes. "I have to give a lot of credit to the University of Iowa, they truly care about people. They show that with all their actions."
The former Hawkeye standout encourages all to give Iowa strong consideration.
"I would encourage any and all high school kids and student athletes to consider the University of Iowa," said Hughes. "I am hoping my kids become a part of the University and a part of that lifestyle. It is truly something special and shows how life, notably relationships and friends, should be handled."