ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WROC) — Jerry Hughes has been doing this for a long time; eleven years to be exact.
He’s been doing it so long that his friends didn’t know what to do when Hughes couldn’t host an AFC Championship Game watch party. That’s of course because he’ll be playing in the game this year.
The Bills have a younger roster and it’s not unreasonable to think this could start to become pretty normal for the franchise. But Hughes is making sure his teammates aren’t taking this opportunity for granted.
“There are so many men who have played, who have been in this business who have busted their [expletive] to get in the NFL and don’t have any hardware to show for it,” said Hughes.
The last time the Bills made it to this game was in the glory days on the 90’s. Hughes knows what those teams meant to the city and embraces the opportunity to be talked about the way they were.
“What Jim Kelly and what Thurman [Thomas], Bruce [Smith], and Andre [Reed] did, we get reminded of every time we walk in this building. That takes a special group,” said Hughes. “For us, and I let those guys know it, let’s go out there and play for you, play for me, play for the guy next to you and so on because we all want the hardware.”
Stefon Diggs is one of the few players on the Bills’ roster to play in a conference championship game. With the Vikings, Diggs had eight catches for 70 yards in the team’s 2017 NFC Championship Game loss to the Eagles.
“I know it’s a big game, but really it just comes down to being detailed in your work, using what got you there. You’ve spent all year, played a lot of football, it’s all about executing,” said Stefon Diggs. “It’s going to come down to which team executes better and living in the moment. There’s going to be some ups and downs, but [it’s going to] come down to giving everything you’ve got. You’ve got to lay it all out there.”
At this point in the season, a lot of the talk would be about winning games for veteran players like Lorenzo Alexander or Kyle Williams. This year, that honor would probably be bestowed upon Hughes.
But while he admits that was definitely a motivation in the past, his teammates are a little more selfish now— in a good way.
“You want to win it for yourself. You want to feel that confetti fall from the sky, you want to be able hoist that trophy up, you want to be able to bring that banner into your office, your building and say I was a part of that team,” Hughes said. “So I think guys are thinking like that. That’s why our play level has picked up in the playoffs. That’s why the attention to detail around the building is at an all-time high becuase we understand what’s at stake. To be two games away, that’s almost like a dream come true.”
It’s one dream that Hughes doesn’t want to wake up from and one he hopes lasts just a little bit longer.