Fifth Down: With Dakota Hughes- Atlanta Steam
After a fantastic rookie season, in which quarterback Dakota Hughes led her Atlanta Steam to a 2014 Legends Cup appearance, Hughes shined again in her sophomore season, but for the second straight year the Steam were defeated in the playoffs by the Chicago Bliss, this time in the 2015 Eastern Conference Championship. With a commitment to return to the Steam for a third season, the young ‘Gunslinger’ is becoming more confident in her ability and she has high hopes for the team that head-coach Dane Robinson will put together for the 2016 season.
LFL360 had the opportunity to speak with Dakota shortly after this season about her life on and off the field. Hear it straight from one of the best female quarterbacks to play the game of football.
Dakota: It was something that I had dreamed of doing since I was little. I just wanted to be able to play football like the boys. When I made the cut, I couldn’t believe I was about to become a quarterback of a women’s tackle football team. Many players on the Steam influenced me throughout my rookie season. The one who was able to help me the most because of her knowledge on the position was Jodie Nettles. I had no clue how to even call a play in the huddle before joining this team. I never knew what it took to be a quarterback in this league and she helped me so much in becoming the player I am today.
2) How do you manage to juggle college, an internship, family and friends and still manage to show up to play in such great football shape for the LFL?
Dakota: It’s definitely something I had to learn how to balance! When I first started, I had to learn the entire playbook, what it took to become a quarterback, and lead an entire team at 18 years old. It was a lot of stress placed on me because I had never done anything like this before. And I had so many other things outside of football to deal with. So, with the help of my teammates and family, it was so much easier to learn how to balance everything.
3) So far, you’ve managed to get to the playoffs in both of the seasons you’ve played. That’s impressive, but you are still seeking your first Legends Cup title. How much does that motivate you for the upcoming season?
Dakota: As a competitor, your goal is to always win a championship. And the fact that I’ve gotten so close, but not yet got that title, is something that drives me even more. Next year we will have the most talent we’ve ever had, and I know next year will be our year.
4) Coach Dane Robinson has went on record in saying that some of the Atlanta Steam players won’t be returning as he looks to improve the roster. As one of the Steam’s leaders, how will you be affected by the loss of some of your close teammates?
Dakota: Of course when anyone leaves, no matter if it’s just one person or a few people, it’s super tough to deal with. We become so close and it always sucks when someone has to hang up their cleats. All of these girls that I’ve played with over the past two years have helped me become the person I am today, so each year that I have to play without one of them, it’s tough. Luckily though, we all get together outside of football and still have that relationship off the field. We all know when it comes to playing sports, there will be an end, so we take it in stride and keep moving forward.
5) You obviously stay busy, but what’s your favorite thing to do outside of football and the LFL?
Dakota: My favorite thing to do is travel. I love going to different places and seeing all of the different people/cultures around the country. I love traveling with friends and family and creating those memories with them.
6) What’s your favorite thing about Georgia and living in the south?
Dakota: Well, I’ve lived in Georgia my entire life so it’s all I know. I love the hot weather and I live on a bunch of land which is enjoyable. I enjoy riding around the property on four-wheelers and there are cows in the pasture next to us, so it’s definitely different than the city. We live in the “country” and I love it because I get the balance of the city life with the football team, and country life when I’m at home.
7) Do you see yourself ever playing on the defensive side of the ball during a game and if so, what position would you play?
Dakota: Bench. I will never play on the defensive side of the ball if my life depended on it, haha! All of my coaches say “absolutely no” to me playing any other position, because they don’t want to take any chances on me getting hurt. I’ve never tackled anyone, or even practiced tackling drills, so it would be a nightmare if I went out there and tried to tackle an LFL player.
Dakota: Lauran Ziegler
9)What is your favorite kind of music and name one song someone would find in your pregame playlist that might be a surprise to them?
Dakota: I listen to all kinds of music, but my favorite is rap music. One song that I love right now is 679. That’s definitely on my pregame playlist to get my type.
10) When MLB players walk up to the plate and prepare to bat, they each have a song playing. If the LFL played a song for quarterbacks as they approached the line of scrimmage, what would your song be?
Dakota: What’s crazy is I don’t even hear the music when I’m on the field. I’m completely entranced into reading the defenses and scheming what I’m about to do, that I don’t even focus on what’s going on around me. But, if I could pick a song for me, it would probably be ‘Hotline Bling’ by Drake.