Southern Nevada Products Boyd, Hughes Helping Lead Rebel Surge|
July 26, 2017
LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) -
By W.G. Ramirez, Special to UNLVRebels.com
For local football fans, the college season kicked off in a big way Tuesday at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
-- UNLV football was picked to come in third in the Mountain West’s West Division – its highest placing since the conference moved to two divisions in 2013.
-- UNLV earned spots on both the offensive and defensive side of the official Preseason All-Mountain West Team for the first time since 2009, with senior wide receiver Devonte Boyd and senior defensive tackle Mike Hughes Jr. being named respectively.
-- Most importantly, Boyd and Hughes hail from local high schools, and both served as UNLV Football's representatives at the 2017 Mountain West Media Summit - the first time two Southern Nevada products filled that duty in the same year.
"Having two local products, guys who grew up here and who played here in the Valley, representing our university as we make this transition and move forward, and having success, it is a big deal," UNLV coach Tony Sanchez said. "As of late, you've really seen the kind of booming talent in this city. It's really impacted the landscape of college football, and to have it impact UNLV is a big, big deal. It's exciting for them, and it's exciting for us."
Boyd (Henderson/Basic HS) is on the offensive side of the league’s official preseason squad for the third straight year, making him the first Rebel to do so since all-time leading receiver Ryan Wolfe earned a spot on the preseason squads from 2007 through 2009.
"I think it's pretty cool to be able to be here with Mike," said Boyd, who is the ninth UNLV wide receiver on the official league preseason team in the last 11 years. "Just hearing about him when we played in high school, we never got a chance to play against each other, and I think it's awesome that both of us are on the preseason all-conference team. I think it's pretty cool to put on for Las Vegas."
Hughes is the first defensive player from UNLV to make the MW preseason team since linebacker Jason Beauchamp was named in 2009. Hughes has started 24 consecutive games, and rolls into his final campaign with the Rebels with a team-leading nine career tackles-for-loss and turned in a career-high 37 tackles last season.
Boyd, meanwhile, is an All-America and MW Offensive Player of the Year candidate. He can become the first player to lead UNLV in receptions four times in a career and needs 866 yards this fall to pass Wolfe’s career record of 3,495 receiving yards at the school.
Sanchez said Boyd and Hughes have not only been fantastic team leaders, but have set the tone as ambassadors for other local products to come to UNLV.
"When you're in a program that hasn't had a lot of success, sometimes the first bump in the road, the first thing that goes bad, everyone says 'oh here we go again,'" Sanchez said. "And it's getting guys over that by being consistent in your approach year-round, training them year-round and having that resonate. Now it's not me talking anymore -- that's just who they are. And that's the biggest thing that we do as coaches -- impact these guys not for a season, not for a four-year career, but for a lifetime.
"They're going to be tougher guys, they're going to understand a day's hard work, they're going to understand not making excuses and the fact that winners find a way. There's always a way to win, you've got to figure it out. The thing that I'm proud about is our guys are understanding that there's no magic to success. It's a lot of hard work, it's a lot of dedication and it's a lot of seeing things through."
It’s also something both Boyd and Hughes reiterated. While Boyd said being consistent with a positive attitude and his focus on academics are the biggest things he's learned from UNLV's third-year head coach - his proudest accomplishment since enrolling in college is his 3.6 GPA - Hughes said he's inherited a perspective of avoiding complacency and becoming a team leader that his teammates can communicate with at all times.
"I remember coming in and we lost our coaching staff. Here I thought I was going to spend the next four years of my life with the same coaches, the same people that recruited me, the same men that sat in my house with my parents," Hughes said. "But things definitely picked up from there with coach Sanchez and his staff. Progressively, I think our team is at our best point. Staying home has been worth it and I'm really happy with how things are looking."
It's the kind of attitude Sanchez has preached since day one, in trying to change the culture at UNLV -- getting players to believe in his philosophy of trusting the process.
"Those things impact the ability to win football games," Sanchez said. "It's about the evolution of a person, not just the player. And it can be hard at first, because they will either resist change or they'll accept change. And both Devonte and Mike accepted it right from the get-go. That leads to having guys who are great players, that are good teammates, that people respect, and are natural leaders. It has helped the whole program move forward.”