One of the feel-good stories of Kansas State spring football practice is ending on a sour note.
Justin Hughes, a senior linebacker who seemed to be emerging as a defensive leader, suffered an injury at practice earlier this week and will not participate in the team’s spring showcase event on Saturday, according to a K-State source.
His recovery time is not yet known, but K-State Online is reporting that the injury is severe enough that Hughes will require surgery and is expected to miss the entire 2019 season.
A spokesman with the K-State football team said he had no information to share on Hughes. But Hughes seemed to confirm the injury with a social media post on Thursday, writing an apology to fans for “not being able to go give it my all this season.”
Hughes played in 11 games last season and seemingly came out of nowhere to make 56 tackles and force two fumbles. After injuries thrust him into the lineup, the Tucker, Ga. native became K-State’s best linebacker and made seven starts.
After making just four tackles during his first three years on campus, he seemed poised to put up big numbers in the middle of K-State’s defense as a senior.
Coaches have raved about his leadership and production this spring.
“Justin Hughes is a guy that is extremely sharp,” K-State defensive coordinator Scottie Hazelton said. “He’s a good, natural and instinctual linebacker, really good kid that understands the whole concept of everything. He is sharp like that, and he can do it on the field.”
“He can take things from the classroom onto the field and it is great to have a guy like that on there. He can also coach the guys when you are not around. He is a leader in the room, gets them together and watches tape and all that stuff. It is nice to have him.”
If Hughes is unable to play next season, the Wildcats will likely turn to Elijah Sullivan and DaQuan Patton at linebacker. Both have starting experience. But depth could be a concern at the position.