Jerry Hughes has an alter ego. He’s named it ‘Gary’.
Gary is the emotional one, the passionate one. The one who would get the 15 yard penalties. Jordan Poyer even said he was nervous about meeting Gary when he came to Buffalo.
This season, following the example of Kyle Williams and Lorenzo Alexander, Hughes has become more of a leader for the Bills. In the process, Gary has become a force for good.
“I think he’s been able to kinda harness that inner self of his to be able to play smart and still be aggressive and be who he is,” Poyer said.
For a decade, the Bills had an unquestioned leader on defense. First, it was Williams. Then, Alexander joined him. Both have retired over the last two years, leaving a void.
Hughes never seemed to be an ideal candidate to replace them, but he was always studying the two experts and acting as a leader in his own way.
“Watching Kyle and being here with Kyle for so long and watching Lorenzo, I’m not as vocal as those two guys are,” Hughes said. “I think, for me, I like to go out there and work hard and perform and use that as a form of leadership.”
“Jerry’s always been a leader in his own way,” Poyer said. “He’s always been vocal to me, a vocal leader. A guy who’s going to show his leadership.”
For the first time in his career, Hughes is a team captain. Sean McDermott has noticed a change that came with the honor.
“When you get that “C” on your chest, there’s a whole new responsibility that comes with it,” McDermott said. “I’m proud of the way that Jerry has embraced it.”
“At some point in time, a leader has to be vocal to let the guys know that this isn’t right or to be vocal enough to congratulate someone, pick someone up when their head’s down or they’re getting ripped by a coach,” Hughes said. “Just to let them understand that this is all love.”
It’s similar to the way Williams and Alexander were captains, but definitely not exactly the same.
“Just figuring out how those guys were able to be such great leaders for so long,” Hughes said. “Then now, seeing how I can put my little spin on it and still be who I am.”
Which means Hughes can still let ‘Gary’ out every once in a while, but in a way that pushes the team in a positive direction instead of 15 yards to the negative.