As a child Nate Hughes had two dreams, to become a professional athlete and a physician. Thanks to his laser sharp focus he can say that his wildest dreams have come true.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Alcorn State University in 2008, Hughes began his NFL career as a walk on with the Jacksonville Jaguars. His career would span the course of four years, playing with the Jaguars from 2008-2011 and with the Detroit Lions from 2011 - 2012.
He entered the NFL with an advantage that set him apart from his teammates and competition. In addition to being a wide receiver, he was also a registered nurse with a plan.
Hughes told Because of Them We Can how he was able to chart his path.
“In the NFL we say the NFL stands for Not For Long. I used my off seasons not only for training, but volunteering and working as a nurse. I continued to work as a nurse after retiring from the NFL.”
Hughes graduated with his Master of Science in Nursing in 2015 and with his Doctor of Medicine from the University of Mississippi on May 24th.
“I was able to save money to help fund school. Some people think all NFL players make millions, but that’s not the case. Most undrafted players sign for league minimum, which is still great money, just not the millions people think.”
He said his transition from the NFL to medical school wasn’t hard at all.
“There are so many similarities between being a professional athlete and a medical school student. These similarities include a competitive environment, long work hours, attention to details, lots of studying, and pushing your body beyond what you thought was imaginable.”
Hughes will officially start his anesthesia residency on July 1st and is expected to achieve his goal of becoming an anesthesiologist by 2023.
“I will be doing my first year of residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. My final three years of residency will be at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson in New Brunswick, NJ.”
At just 34 years old, Hughes’ experience as a husband, father of two, retired NFL player and now doctor, has made him well versed in what it takes to beat the odds.
“The worse thing an individual can do is stop dreaming. I truly believe every dream is given for a reason. I’ve been cut from NFL teams. I’ve done poorly on tests. I was unsuccessful at getting into numerous medical schools on my first attempt. Adversity will find us all, we must keep working hard and never give up on our dreams. The feeling after overcoming the obstacles and achieving your dream will make all of it worth it.”
As for his advice to other young boys with NFL dreams and more, Hughes has the formula for success.
“Let no one out-work you. Don’t stop dreaming big. Make sure your work ethic matches your dreams. And never give in to whatever box the world tries to put you in.”
Having a great partner probably helps too as Hughes and his wife, Lt. Christine Hughes, strive for excellence together. She is one of only five African American female pilots in the US Coast Guard and also serves as co-founder of the non-profit Sisters of the Skies.