For tight end Gabe Hughes, a standout at Highlands Christian High Academy in Pompano Beach, Florida, the NFL was always the dream. And after three seasons with Florida Tech football, that wish came true. In April, he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Miami Dolphins, becoming the first player in FIT history to sign an NFL contract.
The great news hits home—literally. Hughes grew up approximately 30 minutes from the Dolphins’ stadium, formerly known as Sun Life Stadium. Looking back, Hughes remembers not exactly being a strong player on the field. “I was never as big or as filled out as I am now. Most of my best friends make fun of me because I was not the best player when we were little,” Hughes told Florida Today before the draft results came in.
Hughes was with Florida Tech football from the very beginning. He played for three seasons in Crimson and Gray after transferring from Western Michigan. Over the course of his career he racked up 1,244 yards and 10 touchdowns on 74 receptions. Hughes snagged all-region honors each of the past two seasons and was named Honorable Mention All-American by D2Football.com following his senior season.
The tight end has proven to possess exceptional breakaway speed, taking the two longest receptions in school-history to the end zone. Hughes housed an 80-yard score against Valdosta State in the Panthers’ regular season finale in 2014 and replicated the feat this past season against West Alabama.
Because Hughes paved the way with a relatively new Division II football program, many people are learning about Florida Tech for the first time. “Probably every single person I’ve told that’s not from Central Florida asked me where it’s at, how long we’ve had football,” Hughes stated. “I just tell them it’s near Orlando, on the beach, good place to be. I have so much support not only from family and friends outside of the school, but teammates from the team there that started playing there when we started up. It’s kind of just building a path for them to get into the NFL and get an opportunity as well,” he said in a recent interview with the Miami Dolphins.
Learn more about Hughes’s Florida Tech football career in the Florida Today video here.