The Miami Dolphins have added several rookies to their roster over the past few days, including the eight picks made during the 2016 NFL Draft. They have also agreed to terms with 11 undrafted free agents, according to various media reports (the team has not yet confirmed any of the signings). One of those undrafted free agents is Florida Tech tight end Gabe Hughes, the first ever NFL player from the school, which only began a football program in 2013.
Hughes began his college career at Western Michigan, but transferred to Florida Tech in an effort to be closer to home. A native of Lighthouse Point, Hughes grew up just 30 minutes north of the Dolphins' stadium, and will now be looking to prove he is worthy of sticking with his hometown team.
Florida Tech, in an effort to showcase Hughes, along with some other potential free agent worthy players, held their first Pro Day in March. Hughes measured in at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, with a 4.63 second 40-yard dash, a 33-1/2 inch vertical leap, a 10-foot broad jump, and 26 repetitions on the bench press. But, to get more of an inside look at Hughes, I had a chance to speak with Florida Tech wide receiver and tight ends coach Austin Silvoy.
Kevin Nogle (KN): The Florida Tech football program only began play in 2013, and three years later, the Division II school now has their first player to ever sign with an NFL team. How has the program developed this quickly, and should we expect more prospects to come out of 6,000 student body school?
Coach Silvoy (AS): The school had already built a great reputation academically and being located in the mecca of high school football, we were able to find great student-athletes who didn't want to have to travel across the country just to play competitive college ball, and also earn an education that was going to pave the way for their future.
KN: The program held its first Pro Day this year, giving scouts a chance to come see tight end Gabe Hughes, as well as several other players. What kind of feed back did you get from NFL scouts and coaches?
AS: Overall, the scouts were impressed with the numbers of our guys and also the fluidity of our first pro day. It went very smooth and didn't waste anybodies time not being prepared.
KN: Turning to Hughes, who agreed to terms with the Dolphins seemingly as soon as the Draft was over, what were the Draft expectations? There seems to have been some hope that he would be selected during the Draft, but that did not happen. Was it a case of bittersweet that his name was never called, but then he did still get his shot at making in the league? How did the program find out that he was heading south on I-95 and what was the reaction?
AS: We knew there was a chance slight chance to be drafted but honestly sometimes being able to choose where you end up can put you into a better situation in the long run. He wanted to be with the Dolphins because thats what was best for his future. Gabe let us know as soon as he decided with his agents advice. The Dolphins were the #1 team on his list, so we cant be anything but ecstatic for the future he has ahead of him.
KN: Hughes caught 32 passes in 2015, with 566 yards and three touchdowns. He seems to be a receiving threat type of tight end, but needs time to develop as a in-line blocker. According to NFL.com, he is a players that "coasts and plays with a level of nonchalance" at times, though he has the speed to "attack the seam" and makes good adjustments to the ball in the air. Is there is assessment of Hughes close to your experience with him?
AS: The best quality that Gabe possesses right now is his upside. He is still a raw player with tremendous speed and strength, which is why I think so many NFL teams were interested in him. I anticipate him developing at a faster rate within the Dolphins organization.
KN: Obviously, the assessments from anyone outside of the Florida Tech coaching staff does not know Hughes nearly as well as you do. What are the Dolphins getting in Hughes, especially when it comes to film work and the rest of the behind-the-scenes type of stuff that fans might not get to normally see?
AS:The Dolphin fans should expect to get a hungry, humble, team-first type of guy. He is eager to become more of a student of the game.
A big thank you to Coach Silvoy for taking the time to speak with me. As a 2002 graduate from Florida Tech, I am really excited about the fact that the program is developing so quickly, as well as having a chance to see Hughes in a Dolphins uniform. Hopefully what Coach Silvoy said about Hughes developing quickly in the organization and that he will be a hungry, humble, team-first player will prove to be true.