Riders’ Charleston Hughes: ‘If I was to take my talent to the NFL, I’m the best pass rusher’

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ defensive lineman Charleston Hughes is confident he’s the best sack artist on the planet — not just in the Canadian Football League, but the National Football League as well.

Hughes led the CFL in sacks with 16 last season at 35 years old. He’s had a Hall of Fame career in Canada after multiple NFL chances didn’t go his way.

“It’s all politics when it comes to the NFL. If I was to take my talent and go to the NFL, I’m the best pass rusher in the NFL right now,” Hughes said on 980 CJME The Green Zone.

“Name one that’s better than me … I’ll wait. Name one pass rusher that’s better than me … Maybe Khalil Mack, maybe Von Miller because I’m fans of those guys. I’ll say Khalil Mack, Von Miller, and then it’s a close third after that.”

After starring at Saginaw High School and Northwood University in Michigan — earning NCAA Division II All-American honours — Hughes was invited to rookie mini-camps by the Detroit Lions and New York Jets in 2007 but neither team offered a contract. By the time the 2008 CFL season came around, Hughes was a member of the Calgary Stampeders.

The six-foot-one, 246-pound Hughes notched 53 tackles, five sacks and forced one fumble during his rookie year in Canada. He quickly became a key piece in the Stamps’ pass rush as Calgary won the Grey Cup. That led to Philadelphia calling and bringing Hughes to training camp, but the Eagles cut him among the final roster moves prior to the regular season.

“You gotta follow your dreams, still chase it, go after the highpoint, but there comes a time where it just doesn’t work out and you gotta follow your destiny,” Hughes said.

Committing to the three-down league has proven prudent. Hughes has led the CFL in sacks five times in his career: 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Although, somehow, the six-time all-star has yet to receive the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award.

“I’ve gotten robbed. I’ve got a big personality and sometimes stuff doesn’t work out how you want it to. As long as I go down as the greatest to ever touch the CFL field as a pass rusher, that’s all I really care about,” Hughes said.

Currently Hughes has 130 sacks in 12 seasons and 181 career games. That’s over 10 per year and 0.71 of a sack per game. Hall of Famer Grover Covington holds the CFL record for sacks with 157. Based on the averages, Hughes needs to play three more seasons to overtake Covington atop the chart.

“I just try to be the best at what I do and keep striving for that,” Hughes said, “If I’m going to go down as the greatest of all time, that’s what I’m actually shooting for.”

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