From the Love of the Game to the Hall of Fame
VCU employee receives induction into the American Football Association Hall of Fame
University Public Affairs
Before spending his time protecting the streets and parking decks at Virginia Commonwealth University, Gary Hughes enjoyed an illustrious career protecting quarterbacks and running backs in the American Football Association. Hughes’ career was so successful that the AFA honored him with induction into its Hall of Fame in June.
Hughes, an enforcement safety officer for VCU Parking and Transportation, began his athletic career playing various sports with other kids in his South Richmond neighborhood.
“In the neighborhood I grew up in, if you couldn’t play sports you just weren’t part of the neighborhood,” Hughes said. “So you had to learn how to play baseball, basketball and football. Football, out of all the sports, was the one that stood out to me.”
His love of football inspired him to move out of the backyard and into recreational leagues. He played offensive line at George Wythe High School.
When he graduated in 1990, he thought his football days were over. Then, in 1995, a friend introduced him to the Richmond Ravens organization. His passion for playing reignited, he joined the team, with which he had a successful 13-year career.
“I thought I lost my love for the game, but from the first day with the Ravens, it felt like family,” he said. “It was simply the true love of the game that made us suit up and grind out every play of every game to the best of our abilities.”
Hughes’ outstanding career included eight championship game appearances, five of which resulted in league titles. His accomplishments earned him a spot first in the Mason-Dixon League Hall of Fame and then in the AFA Hall of Fame.
“Nominations for our hall of fame are made by active alumni members annually,” said AFA President Dave Burch. "The nominees are requested to submit bios to our selection committee. This info is then scored by the selection committee based on several key categories. The top 18 to 20 nominees are then selected."
Aside from his time spent on the field, Hughes also faced the task of balancing a job and a son while still pursuing football as a full-time hobby.
Hughes started working with VCU Parking and Transportation in 2002. In his position, he enforces traffic and parking during business hours and special events. Before his retirement from football, one of the biggest challenges that he faced was trying to balance work and football.
“It was difficult because the one thing about semi-pro football is you still have to live — you did not get paid any money at that time,” Hughes said. "I had to make sure that I held my job in order to do what I love and that is playing football."
The AFA Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place on June 28 and 29 in Canton, Ohio, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Before I got to Ohio, it was cool. When I left Ohio, it was incredible,” Hughes said. “To be a part of the organization is an honor. When I started playing, none of this stuff was on my mind. I just played for the love of the game. To have my playing career conclude the way it did Friday night, I can’t even put it into words.”
Hughes is now back in school at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College pursuing a degree in film. Aside from his work and scholastic endeavors, Hughes enjoys his time as a father and a husband. He hopes to extend his love of football into the world of coaching at some point.
“I have a whole lot of interests, I love to do what I do and I put my whole heart into everything that I do,” he said.
His positive attitude and work ethic have earned him the respect of his peers and the AFA.
“He has been a loyal participant for several years with demonstrated excellence as a player,” said Burch. “He has received numerous honors and awards for his performance on the field and is well respected for his performance off the field as well.”