50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #47 - DAYMEION HUGHES
#47 - Daymeion Hughes - Cornerback (2003-2006)
It's a little premature, I know, given that he still has five games left in his Golden Bear career. But for almost two years, Daymeion Hughes has been an absolutely dominant corner and he is on track to win the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back for 2006. On that basis, he merits inclusion in the Fab 50.
Hughes came to Cal from Crenshaw HS and made an immediate contribution as a true freshman, starting five games and recording two interceptions and a fumble recovery. He returned his first pick for a 72-yard touchdown against Oregon State. As a sophomore he started all but one game at corner, turning in particularly good performances against Stanford and Oregon State.
These two pretty good years were only a warmup for Hughes' junior season, when he emerged as the best corner in the conference. He picked off five passes and made 62 tackles - an unusually high number for a cornerback which speaks to his outstanding ball instincts and closing speed. His interception against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl ended the Cougars' comeback hopes and gave Cal its second bowl victory in three seasons under Tedford. For his labors Hughes was named to the All-Pac 10 first team defense.
This year Hughes has raised his game yet again, effectively shutting down one half of the football field for every Golden Bear opponent. Through eight games he has seven interceptions and two touchdown returns. If the season ended today, Hughes' performance would rank second only to Deltha O'Neal's record-setting season in 1999 in the history of California DBs. If he maintains this level of play, he will likely win the Thorpe and surpass O'Neal - and we'll have to move him a bit higher on this list.