Former St. Augustine star Tyrone Hughes is headed into the Saints Hall of Fame this year along with fellow return man Michael Lewis. With that honor in tow, Hughes had a chance to reflect on his career, both at the podium and in a later interview with the Advocate, on Tuesday. Here’s his thoughts, edited and rearranged for clarity.

On getting his chance in the NFL as a return guy…

“I never was nervous knowing that the Saints needed a punt and kick returner when I was drafted, because I knew that was something I could do. I had done it, unlike most players, since playground ball. Some guys may have come into it as college guys, some guys might do it in the NFL, I started on the playground as a punt and kick returner. That was one thing I was not nervous about. It was not hard to learn, having been a punt and kick returner, which everyone said was the scariest thing.”

On the art of kick returning

“If you have the speed and the vision, that’s the biggest thing .You can’t just have speed. You gotta have the vision and the quickness to be able to return punts and kickoffs. … If you’ve got the speed, you still have to have the patience to set up your blocks.”

On his most memorable performance, returning two kicks for touchdowns and 304 kick return yards against the Rams in 1994…

“I’m still tired from that 1994 game. Not only did I have two kickoff returns, but I also had my first interception; it was my first start on defense as a cornerback; had my first touchdown scored on me, but it also went down as a game with the most combined return yards. I had a 98-yard return, a 92-yard return, then you had (the Rams’) Toby Wright, who had a 99-yard fumble return, then you had (Rams return man Robert) Bailey, who had an 108-yard punt return. It was a game of back-and-forth, we ended up winning.”

On getting picked by the hometown Saints after his career at Nebraska…

“It meant a lot, but I didn’t expect it. I didn’t expect, my senior year of college football, much. I didn’t expect going from high school to college that I was going to play football. I was going to college. My mom was going to make sure of that, but I didn’t expect to play football. My senior year, started getting a bunch of letters and offers, end up going to Nebraska. Go to Nebraska, play, wasn’t a big-time name, wasn’t a big-time receiver, had great speed. So, the talk started buzzing around, let’s look at Tyrone possibly going into the NFL, agents contacted me my senior year. It was like, Oh wow, the potential and the realization that it could be real, that I could go to the NFL. You get home and the draft happens, and you see your name go across, the New Orleans Saints select Tyrone Hughes, you get that phone call, and it’s like, I’m staying home. Being a St. Aug product, it was amazing. … It was a joy. Your family’s here, they don’t have to travel, they can just come see you.”

On Michael Lewis…

“We were about the same age, but he went to Grace King. I didn’t know anything about him, didn’t hear about him. I was at St. Aug, went off to college came back, got drafted by the Saints, had my career, got done. The next thing I know, here he comes. When he first got here, he was having issues catching the ball. I actually contacted Jim Haslett to ask him — because I knew of (Lewis’) potential — Jim, let me come work with him. (Haslett) told me no, of course, but finally (Lewis) got it down, got it together, and he did a hell of a job. … He’s definitely faster than I was, but that’s a lot to say.”

On his current involvement with the Saints…

“Not much, not much at all. There’s so many younger guys around that they don’t know us older guys too much anymore. It’s even hard to get inside the facility. You’ve got to make a call, set an appointment, just to get over there. We would like, as older players, or players’ association guys, or former players, at least, to be able to reach out to the Saints. I think they’re trying to do that now when they brought in Chief, the old equipment manager, as some type of liaison with the older players, the former players, and the team, to have some kind of relationship with us. Most teams do it where they have suites set up for their guys. Come on in, enjoy the game, food and everything, sign autographs outside. They’re keeping the older guys involved in the community, and that’s something that they haven’t done here.”