BULLARD - Bullard Panthers head football coach Shannon Wilson continually stresses that playing this game they love is temporary whereas education lasts a lifetime.
His two most recruited players heeded that advice.
Panthers senior outside linebacker Mikah Hughes will attend Harvard next fall and play for the Crimson while junior tight end Major Tennison recently committed to play for Charlie Strong at the University of Texas.
Both said they chose their schools based in large part on the educational opportunities afforded to them as much as their football prowess.
Wilson could not be prouder.
“Just when you think kids don’t listen,” Wilson said of Hughes and Tennison. “We always talk about to worry about the next 40 years and not just the next four, to make sure wherever you go that you are going to graduate and be set up for your adult life.
“Mikah repeated my words back to me when he decided on Harvard.”
Hughes said he pretty much has a full ride to the Ivy League school based on the grant he will receive and looks forward to putting pen to paper for the Crimson in February when official letters of intent can be signed.
“I don’t know how you can pass up Harvard,” Hughes said. “I plan on majoring in history or economics and becoming a professor.”
Tennison has a year to go before making his choice of Texas official, but feels confident in his decision and said Strong made a big impression on him during his visit.
“I got to sit down and talk to coach Strong for half an hour or so, and not about football, but about life lessons and being a man,” Tennison said. “That really impressed my parents and it really opened up my eyes that I want to play for a head coach who cares for me after football (too).
“It will also be so helpful to my life afterwards to have a Texas Longhorn education. It was just hard not to say yes when they gave me the opportunity.”
On the field, Tennison and Hughes have played a large role in leading Bullard to the playoffs for the third time since 1993.
Tennison is 6-6, 241 pounds and a matchup nightmare for defenses. He completed the regular season with 24 catches for 541 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns.
Wilson said Tennison resembles Jace Amaro, a former Texas Tech tight end and Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award finalist who now plays for the New York Jets.
“He is a little bit of an anomaly, kind of like a tall cornerback,” Wilson said. “There just are not a lot of guys that are big as he is and that can move spatially as well as he can. You can put him in a lot of different situations and it’s a mismatch.”
In Bullard’s last two games, Tennison has four catches and three of those have gone for touchdowns. In last week’s win over Canton, the Eagles were able to keep Tennison under control until he burned them for a 49-yard touchdown pass.
The junior said he also likes to block as he is normally up against much smaller defensive ends and safeties.
“I was getting the ball thrown to me a lot at the beginning of the season and now teams are doubling me and I’ve received triple coverage sometimes,” Tennison said. “The blessing is if I get double covered, that means someone else is open.
“When I am lined up in the dirt at tight end, I usually try to have fun with it. The defensive ends we face, some are really good and some aren’t the best. It’s been fun to knock them on the ground and let our running back run behind me or around me and then continue after the outside linebacker who is not expecting me.”
Hughes, listed at 6-2, 200 pounds, had already amassed 27 solo tackles through six games and those numbers have only increased with each outing.
The future Harvard undergrad says his technique, relentless pursuit and football smarts separate him from others who play his position. It also helps to have 10 other teammates flying to the football on every play.
“There is a reason we’ve only allowed over 100 yards rushing three times this season,” Hughes said. “If they run away from me, our defense is always great at pursuing the ball.”
Hughes understands the next time he dons his Bullard jersey could be the last and Tennison is focused on making sure Hughes and his fellow senior teammates enjoy a long postseason.
That postseason starts Saturday when the Panthers (7-3) take on Atlanta (6-4) at 2 p.m. from Hallsville’s Bobcat Stadium.
“We are real confident in ourselves and are going to go as far as possible,” Tennison said.