Former Kansas City Chiefs receiver Danan Hughes was in town Wednesday night for the Mark Twain Area Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet at Hannibal-LaGrange University's Mabee Sports Complex.
Danan Hughes knows there is much more to his life story than what shows up in his bio.
The former Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver was in town Wednesday night for the Mark Twain Area Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet at Hannibal-LaGrange University’s Mabee Sports Complex.
What was written about him on the back cover of a pamphlet handed out to each attendee doesn’t come close to covering everything, Hughes said.
“I know all the intricacies and the little details and the nuances that have come along in my life, the curveballs that have taken me one place or another,” Hughes said to a crowd of about 250. “When I look at my bio, I’m like, ‘Wow, it’s been a blessing.’ But what’s not on the bio is me being a darn-near alcoholic at 13 years old.”
Hughes grew up a few miles outside New York City. His hometown was “sandwiched between two of the roughest towns in the country, Newark and New Jersey,” where alcohol and drug addictions ran rampant, he said.
By his high school years, Hughes found himself devoting much of his time to sports as an escape from problems surrounding him.
“I sort of wavered and wandered in this sports world,” he said.
Hughes went to the University of Iowa as a two-sport athlete, starring for both the Hawkeyes’ football and baseball programs. After a two-year stint in professional baseball, he decided football was the sport he wanted to pursue as a career.
The Chiefs drafted Hughes in 1993, and he played all six seasons of his National Football League career in Kansas City, including four years as a team captain.
Above anything else, Hughes said he views what happened during a training camp practice in 1997 as the most important moment he ever experienced.
“I came to know Christ five years into my NFL career,” he said. “Long story, I will give you a snapshot. I was saved on the football field in the middle of practice, in the middle of a scrimmage against the Minnesota Vikings.”
Now on a walk of Christian faith, Hughes said he holds a fundamentally different view of the world and his purpose.
“Life is more than a sport. It’s amazing how God works in something that we play, something that we do, something that we grow up in,” he said. “As we evolve, we recognize that it’s all not us. It’s not what we are. It’s not how we have to be identified.”
Since retiring in 1999, Hughes has gotten into coaching youth baseball, something he said has shown him how significant an organization such as FCA can be for a community.
“(Coaching is) an avenue for me to reach kids that I may not have normally had,” he said. “Different races, different cultures, different backgrounds, different family structures. I can use a little baseball, a bat and glove and coaching techniques to impart life lessons into their world as well as Godly lessons. That’s what it’s about. Taking advantage of opportunities, seeking opportunities to be able to sharpen the next generation.
“That’s what so awesome about FCA. We can take God’s word into places that may or may not accept it normally and shape lives. That’s why it should be something we should be hungry to support.”
Hughes ended his address by challenging those in attendance to let their hearts dictate their minds — not vice versa.
“Choices equal challenges equal changes,” he said. “Choices normally will be presented with challenges. Challenges, if we take them, will result in changes. That’s what FCA is about, that’s what the Christian walk is about, that’s what iron sharpening iron is about. That’s how God is working in our lives if we allow him to.”
Mark Twain Area FCA representative Joe Brandenburg, a former longtime coach at Palmyra High School, said the goal of the event was to raise awareness about what the organization is doing within nearly 20 area schools.
The FCA sponsors leadership clinics, coaches’ marriage retreats and regular meetings led by campus coaches in Northeast Missouri, he said.
“The No. 1 goal is for folks who are here to understand what FCA is and how we can minister to kids in schools,” he said. “These people are the ones that help us get out there, because it is a fundraiser. Last year, we got about 60 to 65 percent of our overall budget in one night. It’s a big event for us.”
Reach sports editor Kevin Graeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.