In today's AFL with free-substitutions, great Ironman players are not common. The requirements of an Ironman player extend far beyond suiting up and running on the field. Arguably, an Ironman is the toughest player on the field. These are players who excel in multiple positions for their team, and have the ability to become the breakout players in each game. The Jacksonville Sharks have multiple Ironman players; Jeff Hughley is the Sharks key Ironman, who has become an impact player for Jacksonville over the course of the 2011 season. After being nominated for the Ironman of the Week Award for Week 13, Hughley has proven that he is a major force in the AFL.
Hughley, who finished second in the league in all-purpose yards in 2010 (2808), was signed to Jacksonville during the off-season. After winning the af2 Ironman of the Year Award and being named to the 2010 AFL All-Ironman Team, the Sharks knew exactly what kind of player they were getting in Jeff Hughley. Being an Ironman is about accepting what position the coach puts you in. You also have to take pride in succeeding whenever youre on the field, regardless of what position youre playing, Hughley said about what it takes to be an Ironman in the AFL.
Hughley began the 2011 season with a hamstring injury that limited his participation in practice, and kept him out of the first three games of the season for the Sharks. He returned to the Sharks line-up on April 1st, in Tampa, when the Sharks played the Storm. He made an immediate impact for Jacksonville as a receiver with 5 receptions for 41 yards and 2 touchdowns. In the following game, Hughley began to play into his Ironman role, totaling 5 receptions for 60 yards, and 62 kick-return yards. Hughleys progression throughout the 2011 season has been exceptional. Through the last three games, Hughley is averaging 117.7 kick return yards. Being an Ironman is about being able to make the best out of every opportunity, and to be able to turn any play into a big play, said Hughley. In addition to leading the Sharks in kick return yards, Hughley also had the teams first 200 all-purpose yard game of the 2011 season, against the New Orleans VooDoo.
Jeff Hughley has the potential to break open on any play he is in for. His quickness and strength are a lethal combination for any defense to try and contain. His Ironman strength is clearly visible on both sides of the ball. Hughley, who had three kickoff returns over 30 yards in the Sharks win over the VooDoo, will be a key factor in the Sharks game this weekend against the division rival Orlando Predators. As an Ironman, Hughleys role for the Sharks is paramount, and he is handling it with monstrous amount of effort and responsibility. The Sharks 10-game winning streak is the most impressive of any team throughout the 2011 season, and has made the Sharks the unanimous number one team three weeks in a row, and each win is carried on the backs of each player on the team.