Faith defines former Lafayette and UVa. star Connor Hughes, not football

Contact Reporterkholtzman@vagazette.com

Why he never stuck with an NFL team is a bit of a mystery for former Lafayette High football star Connor Hughes, who last played professionally part-time in 2012 with the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul.

Hughes, a 2002 Lafayette graduate, still holds multiple career records (points, points after touchdown, field goals made) at the University of Virginia, where he played from 2002-05. The former kicker accounted for nine points in Philadelphia's 2008 ArenaBowl XXII win and had preseason or offseason stints with the New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys in addition to suiting up for the Rhein Fire in NFL Europe.

Hughes ranks 20th all-time in college football field goal percentage (83.54), according to sports-reference.com.

As a UVa. sophomore, Hughes learned through the Athletes in Action ministry that football did not define him. Now, Hughes is headed back to Charlottesville along with his wife, Bekah, and their two young children, to help spread that message with Athletes in Action.

Hughes said, "We will be on campus at UVa., working with the athletes, coaches and athletic administration, just sharing with them the Christian perspective, the gospel; informing them how that affects our life, our sport, different aspects of school."

Hughes will be in Williamsburg for a few more days before the family moves to Charlottesville. Before they depart, Hughes will deliver a speech Sunday at York River Baptist Church.

Athletes in Action was founded in 1966 and is not affiliated with UVa.

The ministry's mission, as stated on its website, is "to help sports-minded people think and live biblically at the intersection of sport and Christianity."

Hughes had worked in insurance since 2011, but gave that up this summer to devote his time to Athletes in Action. It is not a paid position; He and Bekah, the second half of Team Hughes, must garner their own financial support.

"Now Connor is just totally sold out to be the same kind of person and role model for the athletes there on campus," said York River Baptist Pastor Bill Cashman.

Cashman's son, Stephen, grew up playing sports with Connor.

Upon learning of his Athletes in Action venture, Stephen told Connor he needed to talk to his dad and in turn, Cashman asked Hughes to visit his congregation.

"Having known Connor as long as I have, we're just thrilled to be able to bring him here as a local young man who has gotten the call from God to go into ministry," Cashman said. "We want to help support that ministry by making it known, but we're also taking up a love offering for him."

Playing quarterback and kicker, Hughes won a football state championship as a Lafayette senior in 2001 under head coach Paul Wheeler. Current Lafayette head coach and athletic director Andy Linn was offensive coordinator then.

Hughes said, "Seeing (Lafayette football tradition) carried on and them being successful for so many years since then is a neat legacy to look back on and say, 'Hey, I was a part of that,'" and it's something that is sustaining still."

Hughes credited Chris Porter of Athletes in Action for changing his outlook on life in 2003, not only in faith, but in football.

Hughes said, "I felt confident I could go out and put my best foot forward without worrying that, 'Hey, I might miss this kick and people will hate me and I'll be a failure.'"

Hughes believes the atmosphere surrounding college sports can lead to identity crises for student-athletes who have thought of themselves as only ballplayers much of their lives. For the first time, they're seeing that maybe they aren't the best at their sport, maybe their time in that sport is coming to a close and maybe they will have to embark on something else soon.

"Your identity is not who you are as a basketball player," Hughes said. "If you make that field goal, you're not a winner. If you miss it, you're not a failure. Your identity is that you are a child of God and so the call is trust in Christ. You're free to compete, to make mistakes. We're always free to come back to God."

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

Hughes will be a guest speaker at York River Baptist Sunday at 10:45 a.m.

Location: 8201 Croaker Road, Williamsburg, Va.

Find more about Connor and Bekah's ministry involvement at http://www.teamhughes.org.

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