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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Starting Over After Addison’s Disease Derails West Point Ambitions, Central Valley Grad Gets Chance As Huskies Kicker

Ian Hughes is sporting a shaved head, which might be expected of someone who last year attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

However, the earring Hughes wears along with his hairdo is at odds with the clean-cut cadet image, and underscores all that befell someone who last fall set a school record while punting for the Army football team.

Hughes, a former Central Valley High School football star, has left West Point and enrolled at the University of Washington, where he is competing for a spot as the Husky kicker.

A rare illness, Addison’s Disease, forced the change.

“I guess I’ve softened my hard right edge,” said Hughes, laughing about his new appearance. “My conservative views have softened a bit in Seattle.”

Hughes can joke now. What happened to him last winter was no laughing matter. In February, during his plebe year at West Point, Hughes was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease, the failure of his adrenal gland.

It was the culmination of numerous tests to explain the lethargy, illness and discoloration endemic to the disease Hughes had contracted.

He originally dismissed the tiredness as a product of the physical regimen all plebes, especially those on the football team, must endure.

Besides, it had been a turbulent year what with the deaths of his grandfather and a friend. He reasoned that depression contributed to a 20-pound weight loss.

“It went on for weeks,” recalled Hughes of his condition. “I fell out of a couple runs and would vomit very easily. I suffered fainting spells in my room.”

A battery of tests, at first inconclusive, finally ferreted out the cause. The illness, treatable with hydrocortisone and florinave, rendered him non-commissionable.

“I was just relieved to be out of the hospital and healthy,” said Hughes, who worried at the time he might die. “It was disappointing to know I’d made it through the first year and now would have to leave.”

Against the Air Force Academy last fall, Hughes booted a school-record 88-yard punt. Earlier he had a 69 yarder and averaged 52 yards per kick against Notre Dame to win the weekly national AT&T Long Distance Award.

“(CV coach) Rick Giampietri gave me a call when I was in the hospital to check up on me,” said Hughes. “He knew my fate was sealed in the military and said he would make phone calls.”

Hughes said that Husky assistant coach Bill Diedrick told him if he wanted to play again he was welcome to try out at UW.

Hughes said he didn’t kick as well as he would have liked this spring. He had another reaction in mid-May to the Addison’s Disease, passing out at his apartment and being hospitalized after eating dinner out with his sister and her fiance.

“It kind of set me back,” he said. “The next couple of weeks was tough to rebound from.”

But last week he was cleared physically and as far as he knows was still considered UW’s No. 1 punter.

“I talked with one of the coaches who said (my performance) in the Purple and Gold game wasn’t what they looked for,” said Hughes. “But they said what they saw in the spring showed a lot of promise.”

The former CV High athlete was a three-position all-Greater Spokane League football player, named first team defensive back (with a league high 7 interceptions), wide receiver and punter as a junior.

He was first-team receiver and second-team DB and punter his senior year which ended early when he suffered a collapsed lung.

Last summer he survived the obligatory hazing and physical fitness courses for West Point plebes.

“Initially I didn’t know what I had gotten into,” Hughes said. “They put you through the dirt ringer to see if you wash out. It was a tough adjustment from high school.”

Football players had some respite from the hazing and Hughes had settled into the military routine until illness brought it all to an end.

“I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world,” he said. “With all the ups and downs you gain confidence. There’s nothing in the real world you can’t face.”

A political science major who would like ultimately to join the FBI or CIA, he was even able to face his father with the shaved head and the ring in the ear he had pierced at the behest of a friend while attending the Seattle Folk Festival.

“Dad and I avoid the topic.” said Hughes, “It’s probably a summer thing.”

An innocent diversion for someone whose life was so dramatically altered by illness.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo