GENOA – When Jim Hughes read the letter from the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association informing him he would be a 2018 Hall of Fame inductee, he said he was caught so off guard he read it again.
"I was like, wow, the information is out really early," Hughes said with a laugh. "So I thought I'd check to see who the speakers are, but then I thought I should read it again, make sure I read it correctly.
"So I read it again, sat down and thought wow, this is special."
Hughes was inducted April 7 at a ceremony in Champaign. He's been working at Genoa-Kingston since 1978, and has been an assistant football coach on and off for 35 seasons, including this past season under Chad Wilmarth.
He's worked under two Hall of Fame head coaches in Bill McCarty and Dave Russell. Now he's been inducted alongside them.
"I look at the names of the coaches that are in there, and I start thinking it's quite a group," Hughes said. "To be a part of it is really, really special."
He said he learned a lot from Russell in particular, who was his head coach when he first started. He said he also owed a debt to Fran Noyes, the athletic director at the time he hired him.
"With early in my career with Dave, I learned the hard work in the commitment was necessary," Hughes said. "They don't guarantee success but without them you have no chance. Just demand that kids play hard within the rules. I was truly blessed to learn right away from Dave Russell."
He's had a similar effect on other people as well. Current athletic director Phil Jerbi – who was track coach when Hughes was the AD and eventually followed Hughes in the athletic director job – said Hughes has been a huge factor on his life.
Jerbi said he has three main role models in his life. His father, the principal who gave him his first job, and Hughes.
"He's a great ear to listen a great shoulder to lean on," Jerbi said. "I couldn't think of a more respectful and professional man. He's great at what he does for a living and is viewed highly in the community. It's refreshing to see someone who's been at it for this long."
Hughes added that he has a special source of pride that he was inducted into the hall representing just one school in his career – which he said is surprising since he went to Earlville when the schools were football rivals.
"I take pride in Genoa-Kingston. I've come to love this school," Hughes said. "It's surprising cause when I was in high school they were out main rival. So I wasn't a big G-K fan. ... It's been an honor and a privilege to be at this school all these years. And I take that responsibility seriously."