AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) -When Hunter Hughes accepted the head coach position at WT, he immediately knew that he had to make a change.
“I think the first thing I noticed when I got here was that there was nothing to pay tribute to the past, the players that had been here before and the guys that had really laid the groundwork and the foundation for West Texas A&M football," recalled Hughes.
His idea? A display in the Bain Athletic Center, listing the names of alums turned pros. It allows for WT students past, present, and future, to get to look at history.
“Its also good for recruiting, for players to see that you can come through Division II and live your dream out of playing in the National Football League”
WT Football is one of the most successful Division II schools in the country at sending players to the NFL. There are over 200 former Buffs that have gotten to play for an NFL team and eight that have played in a Super Bowl. This year, their success is coming full circle.
“I’d like to know if there’s any other schools that had players that played in the first Super Bowl, which we had Jim Weatherwax play in Super Bowl I and II, and now we’ve had a guy play in Super Bowl LII and LIII," explained Hughes. “Generations today, they don’t know of the Mercury Morris’ and the Duane Thomas’ and the Jerry Logan’s that played here and went on to success in the Super Bowl, but they do recognize what’s going on currently with Bryan Braman and now Ethan Westbrooks going.”
Last year, Bryan Braman played for the Philadelphia Eagles on special teams. This year, Ethan Westbrooks took the field for the Los Angeles Rams. Coach Hughes wasn’t at WT for their playing careers, but Associate Athletic Director Kent Johnson was.
“It makes you feel good, knowing the guy, knowing that his hard work is paying off. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of student-athletes trying to secure a very limited number of spots on a major league roster, and here Bryan has done it, and Ethan has done it.”
Even though Hughes didn’t coach Ethan, he did have to play against him.
“We played him one year. We played West Texas one year and he didn’t play and we played them later in playoffs. He made a huge difference in the disruption that he created for our offense at that point, so you just knew that he was special.”
Now, he talks with him now about returning to Canyon, even as Ethan prepared for the Super Bowl this week.
“He was really asking about this place. He basically just told me, he said ‘Heard there’s a lot of good things going on down there’. He wants to get back out here, he wants to see what we’re doing, he wants to see the new stadium," said Hughes. ”I think for our current players, it provides an insight to a guy that’s been in their shoes, that’s been to that locker room, practiced on the same practice field, and where they are now."
For West Texas A&M, this success is across all sports--and that’s what the university prides themselves in.
“We’ve got one of the best atmospheres, one of the best environments, one of the best platforms for playing college sports, and its not just football," said Johnson. "We’ve got a couple baseball pitchers that are in double and triple-A now, and knocking on the door of the major leagues. We’ve got basketball players playing in Europe right now, as well as Ethan and Bryan in the NFL. So, it says that when you come here, we give you the opportunity to succeed.”