Ralph Freso / Special to the Sun
Published Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 | 7:35 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 | 8:04 a.m.
When Palo Verde High’s Michael Hughes Jr. was deciding the past few weeks on which college football program to be part of, his mother made a simple promise: She’d try to attend as many games as possible.
Turns out, she won’t have to drive far.
Hughes, a defensive tackle and four-year varsity performer, verbally committed tonight with hometown UNLV. He also had scholarship offers by Colorado State, UTEP, Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, but couldn’t say no to the Rebels. In December, he was even recruited by Oregon.
But he has three younger brothers and knows of the importance Saturdays each fall will be to his family.
“They really look up to me,” he said of his brothers. “This is home. Why not stay? It’s what I wanted. I decided to follow my heart.”
He was also attracted with the opportunity to immediately compete for playing time. UNLV graduates Alex Klorman and Tyler Gaston on the defensive front, opening a spot for Hughes to potentially factor into the rotation.
That’s a good thing for UNLV.
Hughes recorded 56 tackles and five sacks in 2013, finishing his career with 139 tackles and 13 sacks. Palo Verde, which opens in 1996, is a perennial power. Hughes clearly made his mark on the high school program.
“He’s probably one of the better ones we’ve had in our school’s history,” Palo Verde coach Darwin Rost said.
UNLV is coming off its first bowl appearance in 13 seasons, finishing with a 7-6 record and returning a handful of key pieces. Hughes feels they are built to have more winning seasons — something he’s eager to be front-and-center leading the charge for.
“I’m ready to come in there and show them what I can do ASAP,” he said. “It’s a program on the rise. It’s going to stay that way.”
Hughes is the third local product in UNLV’s 2014 recruiting class. Desert Pines wide receiver and defensive back Tim Hough committed in the fall; Green Valley kicker Conor Perkins committed in September, becoming the first player in the recruiting class.
Verbal commitments are nonbinding until an athlete signs a national letter-of-intent. Signing day is Feb. 5.