What's It Take?

What’s it Take?

Many of us at one point or another have dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. Whether it be for the money, the fame, or the pure love of the sport, there seems to be few things more desirable than becoming a professional athletes.

We had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Fuel House gym owner and former NFL cornerback Brandon Hughes to discuss his journey and what it took to get to the highest level. So often we speak about genetics and how they play an overwhelming part in how we progress in our fitness journey, true, however there’s one thing that can’t be overlooked, mindset. Having played 20 years of football, from high school, to Oregon State, all the way to the NFL, Brandon knew the path he was heading down if he kept his head down and maintained a central focus.

Brandon, age 18­-22, was of a different mindset. “It’s never enough to do enough” was his motto. You can always, always do more. Though Brandon admitted his schedule was very much regimented like most D­1 college athletes, his willingness to be ever present and disciplined brought an intensity that was rarely rivaled. Brandon started his career at Oregon State as a redshirt freshman and played out the next four years as a cornerback. While at OSU, Brandon gained roughly 30 pounds with a hyper focus and getting his body NFL ready. The same focus he brought on the field, he brought to getting his body for the next level in order to take the abuse playing in the NFL naturally brings. Brandon drove home the point that God given ability isn’t always enough, you don’t just walk into your destiny. 
Brandon started playing football at age 6 with contact starting at 7. Growing up in Bloomington Illinois, he played for the Bloomington Purple Raiders in high school. Brandon didn’t play varsity until his sophomore year but dressed during his freshman year for playoffs. The coaches wanted to keep the freshman group together, which seemed to work out well. Over the course of the next three years, the Purple Raiders went to the state championship twice. Because of his speed, Brandon played wide receiver and was just able to outrun everyone. Colleges didn’t come calling until late junior year for the speedy wide out. He partially credits that to a coach that wasn’t against him but really wasn’t for him either. The coach lacked advocacy for his players therefore some went unnoticed. Another factor that played a part was Brandon’s lack of fondness towards school, math in particular. Complexed with a less than favorable history of attendance, he found himself with limited options for college. Brandon received a ton of letters for track from schools all over the country, football was the priority however. Plagued by factors that were both in and out of his control Brandon kept his mindset cut and dry. “Very simple, if you want something you have to work for it.” Whether it’s showing up two minutes earlier or watching film late into the night, you always want to do a little bit more. You can’t dictate outside factors but you can always control the effort you put in. Oregon State saw that in Brandon. OSU’s head coach at the time, Mike Riley’s father was very close to Brandon’s drivers ed teacher. His teacher was able to vouch for his passion and work ethic. The table was now set for a successful college career.

Brandon went to the San Diego Chargers in the 5th round in the 2009 NFL Draft. His first encounter with a nutritionist came when he entered the NFL. This was a different ball game than before and nutrition would play a bigger part in his everyday life. The things he could get away with before in college couldn’t work in the pros. Quality of quantity would come into focus. Over the course of 5 years, Brandon started his career with the San Diego Chargers, bounced around, and then ended his time on the field with the Philadelphia Eagles. We asked him knowing what he knows now if he would change anything, “More mindful of what I was putting into my body in terms of food” he said. “I wish I had the awareness that I do now, it wouldn’t have necessarily prolonged my career but I could have ended healthier.” Brandon knew his time as a professional athlete was over and was at peace with it. Battling poor hamstrings for much of his football career, he was content with starting his life after football.

As most professional athletes do towards the end of their careers, Brandon was thinking of his next step. He always wanted to be in the thick of things in fitness community by working with and impacting individuals but needed to find his platform. A commercial gym had been his initial thought however he knew that really wasn’t what he wanted. One thought resonated with Brandon, “you can’t take who you are away from what you’re trying to do….don’t always go with what’s trendy, go with what’s in your heart. “ After bouncing around, he landed on opening up Fuel House. Brandon took a lot of what he learned in college and the pros and implemented it into his programs. Progressive overloads, supersets, cardio, mobility, while building strength and endurance are the keys to what he teaches. A little bit of everything to condition a complete athlete.

Lastly, Brandon spoke about balance. Having just opened a business in late 2015 as well as the arrival of his first born child, he was neck deep in stress. What helps build balance? “Needing to put food on the table, my wife and baby need to be first and if anyone’s not going to eat, it’d be me.” You have your family, your responsibilities, and then everything else. If you’re going to talk about, be about it.

Brandon’s gym, Fuel House, is located at 1025 Bristol Oxford Valley Rd, Levittown, PA 19057.

You can find more details at http://www.fuelhouse.fitness/

“Favorite City? San Diego. Best town to play in? Hands down Philly.”