Written by RJ Nealon
- ECGulls.com Contributor
BEVERLY, Mass. – You could define Tommy Hughes '17 (Coram, N.Y.) as a specialist.
For most of his lacrosse playing life, Hughes had one job to perform on the field – win the face off, pass the ball to a teammate, and get off the field. In the lacrosse world, that specialty position is referred to as the FOGO (Face Off, Get Off).
Now, Hughes specializes in something completely different – protecting and serving the citizens of New York City as an officer in the New York City Police Department (NYPD).
"One of the biggest challenges [in training for the academy] was the long-distance running," said Hughes. "I was never a long distance runner or even a few miles type of guy. On the lacrosse field, I had to sprint 50 yards and either pass and get off the field or take the ball to the cage and shoot it. So, running three miles a day was a very big change of pace for me… and a huge challenge."
Embracing challenges is nothing new to Hughes, however.
When he was growing up on Long Island, Hughes' high school team took on several powerhouse programs such as Ward Melville, West Islip, North Port, Babylon, and Walt Whitman, to name a few. In fact, Ward Melville had 13 NCAA Division I recruits on their roster at one point during Hughes' high school career.
And as a faceoff specialist – or FOGO – Hughes met the majority of them head-on, including Myles Jones, who eventually went on to play for Duke University and the Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse (MLL).
Those battles for Hughes – and Myles – were often characterized as aggressive and gritty but they also helped shape the type of player Hughes would become in college.
"Coming up on my college years, for a player like me, who played against top-tier talent in high school game-after-game, it was hard to be recruited," Hughes said. "They [college coaches] didn't want to waste their time [with players on my team], and what made it worse is that I was having family problems and hardship during that time. I couldn't get to recruiting camps like other kids."
Despite everything going against him, Hughes ended up at Endicott College. Some would say it was because of good fortune and chance, but it also had to do with his talent, too.
In terms of the good fortune and chance part of this story, enter Jeremy Morgan and John Morgan, a set of twins two years his elder that Hughes played with in high school.
The twins knew Hughes' story all too well.
They both went to the same high school, went through the same recruiting struggles, and definitely knew the feeling.
During his junior year, Hughes received a text from one of the twins asking how things were. Hughes told them not much was going on [in terms of recruiting], because of the program's results on the field that season and in years past.
The brothers understood his response and quickly told him to reach out to then Endicott College head coach Sean Quirk, who is now the Associate Director of Athletics at the college.
After Quirk got to know him as both a person and player, especially the talent he possessed, Quirk and the rest of coaching staff knew Hughes would be a great fit on the oceanside campus in Beverly, Massachusetts.
"He [Tommy] had a great career on Long Island," said Quirk. "We knew he'd be a great fit as a student-athlete here at Endicott College. The rest is history."
What no one knew at the time, when Hughes committed to Endicott, is that he would become the NCAA Division III all-time faceoff wins leader with 1,191 total. In fact, Hughes currently ranks second all-time among all three NCAA Divisions, even ahead of Boston Cannons' 2018 first overall draft pick Trevor Baptiste, who won 1,158 faceoffs at Denver.
The strange but true part of that story is Hughes and Baptiste would later become teammates with the Boston Cannons in 2018. Hughes was selected No. 86 overall (Round 10, Pick 5) in the 2017 MLL Collegiate Draft.
Eric Hagarty '10, M'11, now the current head coach of the program, knew then – at the very least – that Endicott landed someone special in Hughes.
"Tommy was a steal for us," said Hagarty, who was an assistant coach for the Gulls when Hughes began his collegiate career. "We knew the talent he possessed on the field and we knew that Endicott was a great fit for him. With those two pieces aligning we were confident that something special was on the horizon."
Athletically, the stats don't lie for Hughes.
Overall, in his career at Endicott, Hughes' helped the Gulls to a 50-26 overall (.658) and 31-1 mark in conference play (.969). Those figures resulted in Endicott winning two Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) championships and making three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Meanwhile, on the individual end for Hughes, the faceoff specialist compiled 25 goals and nine assists for 34 points in 76 games played. More importantly, in terms of his position, Hughes also notched a program record 753 ground balls and, as previously mentioned, an NCAA Division III record 1,191 faceoff wins.
The rest of his accolades include: two All-America nods, four All-Region selections, and four All-Conference honors.
Academically, however, things didn't come as smoothly for Hughes.
(Spoiler alert, if you haven't figured it out by now, Hughes makes it through this part of the story on his feet as well.)
When Hughes began his academic career at Endicott he majored in accounting. That doesn't seem to "add up" considering Hughes is currently a member of the NYPD, but he has Endicott's nationally-recognized internship program to thank for that.
Per the Endicott.edu website, "Our unique four-year internship program makes it possible for you to graduate with a resume and a degree. Graduates will leave with an excellent educational foundation, substantial career experience, and a clear pathway for the future. In fact, more than 99 percent of our graduates report being employed or attending graduate school within one year of graduation."
In short, the three internships required of students in order to graduate allows them to experiment and find their true passion. That's exactly what happened with Hughes and law enforcement.
Hughes' first internship was with an accounting firm, but his second came with the Massachusetts State Police.
Much like Quirk said about Hughes' athletic career, the rest was history.
The NYPD is the largest and one of the oldest municipal police departments in the United States, with approximately 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilian employees. The NYPD was established in 1845, and today, is responsible for policing an 8.5-million-person city, by performing a wide variety of public safety, law enforcement, traffic management, counterterror, and emergency response roles.
Now, Hughes is one of those 36,000 officers. It took a lot of work to get there, though.
"When I first came out of school I needed to drop some weight," Hughes said. "So I set a goal to drop 30 pounds, and it started with eating right and fueling my body with all the right foods. It wasn't easy and the first two weeks was definitely the hardest, then after that, it became routine."
"As the time went on [in academy training] the instructors pushed us demanding the best," Hughes added. "From running three miles to doing verticals in the eight-story building we worked in for six months, they threw every different obstacle and weather condition at us because out on the streets it was the real deal and they wanted to prepare us for what the streets held."
At first glance, it doesn't seem like Hughes went through a ton of adversity to make his way through the academy in comparison to the rest of his story. And, you might be right in that assumption. That's because of how lacrosse prepared him to meet his most difficult challenge, head on.
"There are so many different things in the game of lacrosse that helped me and will help me have a successful career in the NYPD," Hughes said. "Coach Quirk always told us never ride the highs too long and never ride the lows too low."
You might have also assumed we would end this feature on Tommy with a tag-line on how he's still a specialist, but you'd be wrong.
The only thing we know is that it takes a special kind of person to serve others.
THE ENDICOTT INTERNSHIP MODEL
Endicott College is a pioneer in requiring comprehensive internship experiences in every program of study for undergraduate students. A philosophy of "learning by doing" permeates the college curriculum in which students are encouraged to integrate theory and practice in all of their studies.
Through their experiences in internships students will be prepared to:
- Apply, integrate, and evaluate knowledge within a particular academic discipline
- Develop competencies for careers and community service
- Explore career options and gain field experience
- Foster personal growth through increased self-confidence, interpersonal skills, an understanding of self and others, and a heightened awareness of ethical standards
- Improve the ability to learn in a self-directed manner
(Photo Credit - Tommy Hughes '17)