Texans’ Hughes credits kids for helping him find fun in sports – Houston Texans Blog

Texans’ Hughes credits kids for helping him find fun in sports – Houston Texans Blog

6:00 a.m. ET

DJ Bien-AimeESPN

HOUSTON – Heading into the final weekend of the season, defensive end Jerry Hughes will return to the city where it all began when the Houston Texans visit the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts selected Hughes in the first round of the 2010 draft out of TCU, and in the veteran’s 13th season, his first with the Texans, he’s playing like he just stepped out of the fountain of youth.

The 34-year-old has nine sacks and has the 16th-highest pass completion rate in the NFL (19%). Those numbers are why Hughes was voted a Pro Bowl alternate.

However, last season, Hughes completed his ninth and final season with the Buffalo Bills where he recorded just two sacks, one tackle for loss and seven quarterback hits — his lowest numbers since 2012 with the Colts.

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He promised himself that he would never repeat such a season.

Hughes credits his teammates, coach Lovie Smith’s defensive scheme, his diet (along with the Texans’ food infrastructure) and a host of other aspects for his resurgence, but in his mind, his resurgence hit close to home. – literally.

Before signing a two-year deal with the Texans in the offseason, Hughes was doing some “soul searching.” The search ended during a children’s swim meet last February.

His son, JR, and daughter, Hayden, were in the race.

He had an epiphany as he watched. He realized what was missing in his competitive ways. He realized that although there is a lot on the line for professional athletes, that at the end of the day, it’s just a game.

He realized in their innocent eyes that he was missing something so simple: have fun.

Hayden, 4, and JR, 6, wore red, white and black swim suits with a red swim cap. Each bested their individual competition in their respective heat of a 25-yard freestyle event.

When they got out of the pool, they were both giddy with excitement. They smiled and pointed to their proud father, who positioned himself at the head of the natatorium seats to cheer them on.

Jerry Hughes’ children pose for a photo after a local swimming competition. JR, left, is 6 and Hayden is 4. Photo submitted by Jerry Hughes

At that moment, the light bulb went on for Hughes. Seeing his children succeed was one thing. Watching them have fun was a game changer.

“I was like, ‘Oh, this is the fun that sports are supposed to bring,'” Hughes told ESPN. “We get paid a king’s bounty, but it’s still a child’s game and if you want to win, you have to have fun and give that joy back.”

Hughes said that last year, with the organization that helped save his career, he was mentally disturbed.

In 2013, the Bills traded for Hughes after he had just five sacks in his first three seasons, and he immediately made an impact. He recorded 10 sacks in his first season (another 9.5), which led to a five-year, $45 million extension in 2015.

He left Buffalo tied for fourth all-time in franchise history with 53 sacks, but for some reason before last season began, his mind was plagued with self-doubt.

As a result, the fun disappeared.

“Man, my doubt came into the first week,” Hughes said. “The year before, I was the captain. The year after, I wasn’t. That bothered me. That probably bothered me for the first two months of the season. It kind of went to, ‘Am I having fun?’ I’ve never been a captain. before, so it was an honor to receive it, and then … [it was] busy.

“The first thing that went through my head when they announced the captains is, ‘Okay, so I’m not here next year.’

These thoughts would have a ripple effect.

He slowly cleaned out his closet, week by week.

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Then came the obsessive self-criticism on playing days. He overthought and pressured to get sacks, which prevented him from playing freely.

And when those sacks didn’t come, he became overly critical of himself during film study.

“When the production wasn’t there, I was mentally destroying myself,” Hughes said, “and I felt like all the negativity I was bringing to myself wasn’t helping the ending in any way. I would credit myself, but it would be too negative. . “I have to do better.”

“Seeing nothing positive about how I was able to beat that man to get into position to make the sack. That was out the window.”

The results during those first four weeks of the season were minimal, as he had three tackles without a sack or a quarterback hit.

Eventually, Hughes realized it was an unhealthy approach.

Hughes credited teammates like Texans defensive end Mario Addison, who was also on the Bills last year, for continued encouragement.

“When you don’t have the season you normally have, I’d be less of a friend if I didn’t stick with it and keep pushing them,” Addison said. “When Jerry’s focused, there’s no stopping him.”

It wasn’t until the Week 5 loss against the Tennessee Titans last season that Hughes felt close to normal. He felt “fun and energy from the game” as he recorded two quarterback hits.

Hughes stopped taking clothes out of his closet, stopped criticizing himself and carried that positive energy throughout the rest of the season. And although the raw numbers weren’t up to his expectations, he felt a sense of relief. A sense of normalcy.

And it wasn’t as if Hughes couldn’t beat his blocker, as his passer success rate was 20.9%, which ranked 13th among qualified passers. He just wasn’t recording the sacks like he usually does.

So Texas defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire emphasized completion for Hughes.

“When we brought Jerry in, one thing I noticed about Jerry last year is that Jerry had a lot of one-on-one wins.” Cesare said. “I told him that when he came here. I said, ‘Look, if you do the same thing you did, the same thing you did last year, but now just finish, focus on finishing, getting to the quarterback as fast as you can. and by removing it, you will have much more hasty production.’ And this is what he has done.”

Hughes heads into Week 18 as the Texans (2-13-1) travel to the Colts (4-11-1) on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) one sack shy of his career high (10) .

It remains to be seen whether Hughes will come up with a banner season after reinventing himself, but one thing is for sure – he has JR and Hayden to credit for finding themselves.

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