There was a time when Oklahoma State could have been considered the leader for Dunbar star Stepfawn Hughes. After all, they were the first school to show real interest in the speedy dynamo from Fort Worth, Texas, the first school to offer him a scholarship.
"Oklahoma State offered him his freshman year," said Hughes’ high school coach, Todd Lawson. "They saw how he worked in the weight room and they saw how he did in 1-on-1s, and they said ‘Oh we’re going to offer him off the bat."
For a while, Hughes – who became Missouri’s 18th commitment for the Class of 2014 on Friday – had the Cowboys right at the top of his list. Then Oklahoma State had some staff changes last offseason, and several other teams – including Missouri – pounced on the 5-foot-9, 185-pounder, who also happens to be the younger brother of Missouri receiver Darius White.
"When the changes happened at Oklahoma State they lost contact for a while and that kind of opened the door," Lawson said. "He was loyal in the beginning but that gave other schools a chance to talk with him and open his mind up and see if he really wanted to go there."
Now, Oklahoma State’s loss is Missouri’s gain. While Hughes is listed as a two-star prospect by Rivals and is unranked by Scout, both ESPN and 247Sports have him as a three-star prospect. Hughes also has an impressive offer sheet, as he picked Missouri over Louisiana State, Nebraska, Baylor, Colorado, Iowa State, North Texas and yes, Oklahoma State.
Lawson said Missouri offered the versatile Hughes as a slot receiver, running back and cornerback. He suspects Hughes, who also returns kicks and punts, will pick whichever side of the ball allows him to get on the field the quickest.
"He understands once you get to college, you need to do whatever you need to do for the team," Lawson said. "He understands that in order for him to get on the field, he’s going to have to get in where he fits in."
Lawson is confident Hughes has the physical ability to offer that versatility. You can see for yourselfhere
, but Lawson said Hughes recently ran a 4.52 40-yard dash, benched 265 pounds, hang cleaned 300, squatted 530 and a posted a 38-inch vertical leap.
In a lot of ways, Hughes reminds Lawson of his older brother, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver who earned the nickname "D-Money" back in high school and is trying to make an impact as a junior at Missouri after he transferred from Texas in December 2011.
"A lot of the skills Money has, Stepfawn has," Lawson said. "He just has them in a smaller package."
Lawson said Hughes’ relationship with his brother helped facilitate the commitment, of course, but so did the effort defensive coordinator Dave Steckel, his lead recruiter, put into recruiting Hughes and his brother.
"Coach Steckel, he’s really known in the Dallas-Fort Worth area," Lawson said. "If there’s something he wants, he gets after it, and that’s a good thing."
It also doesn’t hurt that one famous Dunbar alum, star receiver Victor Bailey, also played at Missouri from 1990 to 1992 and is sixth in career receiving yards with 2,144.
"In Victor, he had a good source where he could find out a lot about Mizzou and how he’s treated now that his career is over," Lawson said. "You get the feel for how things will be down the line, when your playing days are over, the options you have."
Add that to the litany of players the Tigers have pulled from the Texas since Missouri coach Gary Pinkel took over in 2001, and Lawson wasn’t surprised at all when Hughes walked into his office late last week and told him he’d settled on Mizzou.
"He just walked in and said ‘Coach, this is where I’m going – we need to call Coach Pinkel,’" Lawson said. "And they were elated."