After not playing last season, defensive lineman Montori Hughes has been eagerly awaiting his chance to get back on the field and be a reliable presence in the middle for the Redskins.
It only makes sense that Montori Hughes has been following the lead of Ziggy Hood in the Redskins locker room over the last several weeks.
Hood, like Hughes did this past January, signed a Reserve/Future contract with the team in 2016, playing his way into the defensive line rotation that year. His veteran presence and quality on the interior of the line was enough for Washington to hand him a new contract before the start of last year.
It's the kind of blueprint Hughes would like to follow, especially since missing last season after the Kansas City Chiefs cut him in training camp.
Before that, Hughes, 27, had played in 25 career games splitting time between the Indianapolis Colts, which drafted him in 2013, and the New York Giants, recording a combined 23 tackles and one pass defensed.
"It's an opportunity of a lifetime," Hughes said on a recent episode of "Redskins Nation." "I didn't play last year so being able to get out on the field and being able be out in the locker room is always a blessing. So that was number one. I was drafted under [defensive coordinator] [Greg] Manusky, so I was kind of familiar, so I just got the opportunity. I'm blessed to have it."
Hughes stands at 6-foot-4, 350 pounds, which makes his role on the team pronounced. He's there to clog the middle and defend the run.
"With the defense, you need that big guy in the middle, stop the run," Hughes said. "As you can see, I'm not a small guy, so I feel like my presence can be felt in the middle of the defense. Just excitement, and having fun and brining all the chemistry of the other guys together and being a team."
That's what he was drafted for in the fifth round by the Colts, which used him sparingly in his rookie year. The Tennessee-Martin product (he transferred from the University of Tennessee in 2010) made a jump in his second year appearing in 12 games, recording 11 tackles and playing in all three postseason games with the Colts that year.
Hughes said he's never carried a chip on his shoulder for being overlooked or underused, but hopes he can take another step after losing a year of experience in 2017.
"I look back on it, everything happens for a reason," Hughes said. "I can't look back and regret anything. I can just look forward and try to make the most of it and take it from there."
Aside from being familiar with Manusky during his time with the Colts, Hughes has crossed paths with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula over the last month, and though league rules don't permit them to have any extensive football meetings, he's looking forward to picking Tomsula's brain in the coming weeks.
"That will be coming soon," Hughes said. "I know he's a high intensity guy, he knows the game, and I'm just willing to learn from him."