How Pete Hughes looks to the New England Patriots as he builds K-State's baseball programThe Manhattan Mercury, Kan. — Ryan Black The Manhattan Mercury, Kan.
Feb. 09--Feb. 9--Pete Hughes started with a caveat.
Hearing anything positive about the New England Patriots is a tough sell in nearly any region of the country. But that's doubly true in the area where Hughes, Kansas State's first-year head baseball coach, calls home. After all, it's Chiefs' country. But the Patriots, and the seemingly ageless duo of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, stopped the Chiefs one game short of the Super Bowl, winning the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium on Jan. 20.
"I had the Chiefs (in the Super Bowl), for whatever that means, right?" said Hughes, who was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, and went to high school in Boston. "So I'm wrong there, too."
Despite the Patriots' lack of popularity outside their small geographic footprint, Hughes said New England's blueprint for success -- a winning formula dating back to its first Super Bowl following the 2001 season -- can translate across sports.
"You just look at it: Someone who can do something at a high level that long, you should look at that -- we all should look," Hughes said. "It just doesn't happen anymore. You completely turn over a roster, and you still win at that level?"
Hughes marvels at the way the Patriots regularly bring in players who had worn out their welcome elsewhere and gets them to buy into a team-first, selfless mentality. That's how strong New England's aura is: outsiders don't change the locker room; its locker room changes the interlopers.
Randy Moss, Hughes said, is the perfect example.
"He walks into New England's clubhouse and he flourishes as one of the greatest receivers in the game, again," Hughes said. "And then he turns that into this career where he's a broadcaster, and now everyone loves him. That wasn't the case before New England."
Hughes also closely studies how Belichick fills out his roster every year. And Hughes is looking for the same qualities as he builds the Wildcats' program from the ground up, centering his entire recruiting model around it.
"He wants to full his clubhouse with team-first guys who have a high football acumen (and) who love the game of football," Hughes said. "And then fourth, (he wants) talented guys. You'd think it would be the other way around, because it's fleeting when you bring in these talented guys who aren't very smart to make all the adjustments of the NFL, who don't love the game, who can't pay the price like Brady does at 41 years old. His life's consumed with it. Those guys lose games for you."
College baseball has its differences. Hughes deals with college kids, not professional athletes.
But enough similarities exist that Hughes will continue looking to Belichick, Brady and the Patriots for inspiration.
"I want solid citizens," Hughes said. "I want kids who are intelligent, who can understand the academic component so I'm not babysitting academically, so I can talk about going to Omaha every day rather than academic problems. And then super-talented guys and high-character guys. That's who I always try to fill my clubhouse with."
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