Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game. It’s part of the NFL’s PlayFootball.com.
Hugh Douglas still keeps an old picture of his first football team.
“I played flag football when I was young, and I really enjoyed it. I loved it,” Douglas said. “I still have a team picture from back then. My team then was the Jets.”
Years later, Douglas would make it to the NFL — as a first-round draft pick of the New York Jets.
“Now how about the irony of that?” he said. “I played for the Jets as a little kid and then got drafted by the New York Jets. That’s something, isn’t it?”
As an eight-year-old kid, Douglas wasn’t thinking about his NFL future. He just wanted to make his parents proud.
“What I remember most and the biggest thing for me, like any kid, was the approval from your parents,” he said. “The best thing was my dad used to come to my games. My dad worked a lot; he worked all the time. So when he would come to my game that would mean a lot to me to see him there.”
Douglas said he also learned a lot on the youth football field.
“The teamwork, the loyalty to the team, the sacrifices you make, all of that. That was all so important and it carried with me at every level I played.”
Douglas went on to star at Mansfield (Ohio) Senior High School, then to Central State University, Ohio’s only HBCU. Douglas was a two-time NAIA All-American for the Marauders.
In the 1995 NFL Draft, the Jets picked Douglas 16th overall. He spent his first three seasons in New York before being dealt to the Philadelphia Eagles, where he blossomed into a three-time Pro Bowl defensive end from 2000-02.
During the 2000 season, Douglas recorded 15 of his 80 career sacks, 21 tackles for a loss, and the lone interception of his career.
He ended his ten-year NFL career with a year on the Jacksonville Jaguars and a return to the Eagles before retiring before the 2005 season.
After retiring, Douglas spent time in the Eagles front office, Philadelphia sports talk radio, and ESPN. Currently he is on 92.9 The Game’s morning radio show in Atlanta.
Douglas said he has been able to succeed in his post-playing career because of the lessons he learned on the field.
“Everything I have now, or have ever gotten, came from football,” he said. “That work ethic you get, from falling down and having to get back up and just keep going — that all comes from playing on a team.”
Hugh Douglas played his high school football at Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Ohio