While the sophomore season of the Atlanta Steam has endured a myriad of changes, from a new coach, offseason player turnover and a road contest against the Toledo Crush rescheduled due to poor ticket sales, one bright spot is at the quarterback position. Despite being only 18 years old, Dakota Hughes has impressed coaches and players alike with her steadiness and on-field presence as the team’s new quarterback for 2014.
Taking into account that new head coach Dane Robinson went into training camp with many new position players, the presence of Dakota Hughes provided him with a reliable quarterback. That presence may prove to be a key factor in helping the Steam repeat as division champions for the second consecutive season.
Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Hughes is managing to juggle football with academic commitments. Attending Kennesaw State University as a communications major, Hughes brought a remarkable athletic breadth to the Steam. At the high school level, she excelled in basketball, flag football and softball. As a side note, she would sharpen her skills for the Steam by competing in flag football with Kennesaw State.
Although her maturity and respect for her teammates has won Hughes many new fans, it is something that was reciprocated by Jodie Nettles. One of the team’s leaders, Nettles competed at Wide Reciever in 2013 and served as the backup quarterback to Hughes on opening day against the Omaha Heart. Her acceptance of Hughes and the willingness to provide mentorship is one of the reasons why Nettles is one of the franchise’s cornerstones.
Leading into the Steam’s season opener, Nettles made herself available to share her stories with Hughes while assisting her in understanding the team’s offensive system while being able to analyze the opposing defense. There is no question that Hughes’ ability to help the Steam prevail in a 20-13 opening day victory was in part testament to the remarkable team work that Nettles showed.
The fact that Hughes managed to play through a wrist injury also endeared her to fans and players alike. While she will be benched for the next two games due to her wrist injury, it is also testament to her toughness and tenacity.
Suffering the wrist injury on her throwing hand early in the second half, Hughes never showed any sign of quit. Despite throwing an interception late in the fourth quarter, the Steam defense played hard, retrieving the ball back from Omaha. In the final minute, Hughes would reward their effort by tossing the game winning touchdown pass in the victory against a stingy Omaha squad.
Statistically, she compiled nine of 17 pass attempts for 102 yards and two touchdown passes. Ironically, both of her touchdown passes in the contest, included the game-winning pass were received by Nettles.