It has been my honor and pleasure to know Ray Hughes for decades. That’s really not unusual, Ray knows everybody.
We often played golf (he’s a lot better than I am) and umpired many nights together. I always loved working with Ray because he always did it right and had such a great sense of humor.
He gave a great talk at our Lascassas basketball banquet, one year and I heard him give a pep talk to the Oakland football team one night at Jefferson County when he was an assistant.
Ray has a very distinctive voice that players respond to – he sounds like what he is: a coach. We carried the game on WGNS and Oakland won. His pep talk helped.
I have always felt Ray was one person who spent his career doing exactly what he loved and what was intended. His life was meant to be spent teaching and coaching.
If there is a better linebacker coach in the state than Ray Hughes, I haven’t met him yet. His defensive players often met at Ray’s home to break down tape. He’s in the Oakland Hall of Fame for just that reason.
Before I met him, he was at Hobgood Elementary School and later landed at Central High School as a teacher and assistant football coach.
In 1970 the Tigers finished 12-0 and won it all. Some argue this may have been the best team ever in Rutherford County. After all, we’ve had nine state champions since the 1970 Tigers and eight runners up.
When Oakland and Riverdale were formed in 1972, Ray was appointed the Oakland head football coach by Oakland Principal John Swafford and over the next two years, got Oakland off to a great start at 12-7-1.
He then went to MTSU, but it wasn’t long before he went back to Oakland as an assistant to David Alsup. He was there in 1984 when the Patriots beat Memphis Hamilton in the Clinic Bowl to win Oakland’s first of three state championships.
Chip Walters and I, along with Bobby Gardner, broadcast the game and when we finished up about 30 minutes after the final horn, I looked down from the Vanderbilt Press Box and saw Ray talking to a member of the clean-up crew.
They were the only two people on the stadium floor.
Ray told me later in one of his many radio interviews that they were talking about football. You can learn something from every person you meet, he said.
Good to know.
An unusual thing happened in that championship season.
Oakland lost to state power Lincoln County in Fayetteville, 8-0 and during the game Ray got really mad at an official and threw his hat. For the rest of the game the Lincoln County fans booed him.
In the rematch in the playoffs, Oakland beat Lincoln County by three touchdowns.
Two years later Lincoln County made an attempt to hire Ray as their head coach. He turned down the interview.
On Friday night, Sept. 6, Oakland High named the on-campus stadium, Ray Hughes Stadium.
I can think of nothing more fitting and well deserved. His real legacy, of course, is the countless children he helped over a long teaching and coaching career.
Football Scoreboard La Vergne 42, Stewarts Creek 0 Eagleville 42, Huntland 6 Blackman 35, Riverdale 0 MTCS 48, Mt. Juliet Christian 17 Oakland 35, Siegel 25 Smyrna 17, Antioch 0