Lance Hughes got his love of sports from his dad. Not only did Samuel Hughes give him pointers, but he and his wife, Yvonne, never missed a game, from when Lance was 8 until he finished playing football at Southern University.
“He motivated me and taught me what a real father should be like, even though he never knew who his was,” Lance Hughes said. “I just tried to mentor and do the same thing with my boys.”
On Oct. 27, the Hughes clan got to pay him back.
When Samuel Hughes, 90, stepped into LSU’s Bernie Moore Track Stadium for the Louisiana Senior Olympics, he had an 11-person cheering section that didn’t care how far he threw the javelin, discus or shot — events that have become a family tradition. Having competed in Senior Olympics for 32 years, he’s got a wall full of medals at his Scotlandville home.
They were there to celebrate that he’s still going strong.
“I told the boys I’m going to try,” Samuel Hughes said. “If I fall out down there, y’all just pick me up.”
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Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Samuel Hughes graduated from McKinley High School in an era when it didn’t have equipment to field a full track and field team, but his athleticism flourished when he served in the Air Force. Stationed in Okinawa, Japan, he twice represented his base at the Far Eastern Air Force games.
“That’s where they would send the best athletes from Okinawa to Japan,” he said. “I made it with the javelin. When I went there, the coach needed somebody to long jump, and I did the long jump.”
He won the javelin, finished second in the long jump and also played on the basketball team. After he left the military, Samuel Hughes enrolled in Southern University but competed in only one track meet.
“I was in my 20s, and it was about time for me to finish school,” he said.
He got his degree in education and taught in East Baton Rouge Parish public schools. He was at Capitol Elementary for several years. When the system integrated, he taught at Broadmoor and Beechwood elementary schools before retiring in 1987. Along the way, he coached elementary school athletes and, of course, his son, who won a state high school discus championship at Southern Lab.
When Samuel Hughes retired, he started participating in Senior Olympics. He practiced in his yard, and his grandson, Terry, Lance Hughes' oldest son, was there to watch and help.
“I got started by throwing the implements back to him, for the most part,” Terry Hughes said. “He had a big impact. He instilled it in my dad and put it in me that we kind of have the love for track and field.”
Terry Hughes was a track star at Dutchtown High before going to LSU, where he competed in the NCAA Championships qualifier in the javelin in his final season in 2016, finishing 10th place in the javelin at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Terry Hughes is now an assistant coach at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where his younger brother, Tyler, is a hurdler. His youngest brother, Trent, throws the javelin for Dutchtown High.
“He absolutely molded who I was, and it just kind of flourished from there,” Lance Hughes said. “They all have strong ties to track.”
Samuel Hughes and his supporters, who included his wife, children, grandchildren, daughter-in-law and two of his grandsons’ girlfriends, all wore T-shirts with the image of a javelin thrower and “TEAM HUGHES” on the front and “90” on the back to signify his age. His grandsons’ shirts also indicated they were his coach.
Whether it was the coaching, the support or both, Hughes won the javelin and placed second in the discus in the 90-94 age category. He skipped the shot put.
“I enjoyed it,” Samuel Hughes said. “I’m glad I could go at my age. It might be my last time.”