SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) -Football has helped Notre Dame tailback Robert Hughes to keep his mind, at least briefly at times, off the senseless murder of his older brother.
``Being around the coaches and players was a huge difference maker in me keeping my mind off of everything that was going on back home and allowed me to get active, run around and release some of the pressure and the pain I've felt,'' Hughes said.
Hughes, a freshman, spoke with the media Tuesday for the first time since his brother, Tony, was fatally shot in Chicago a week earlier. A witness told police she heard arguing and then shots fired before Tony Hughes, a 24-year-old athletic trainer, was found on a sidewalk with a gunshot wound. No arrests have been made.
Not knowing why it happened makes the murder harder to deal with, Hughes said.
Offensive coordinator Mike Haywood, who has seen two of his brothers die young from health problems, said he has spent a lot of time talking with Hughes. Hughes takes solace that he spent a lot of time with his brother two days before his death, but still is having trouble adjusting, Haywood said.
``One of the things that's most difficult for him to deal with is when you encounter death and an individual has been sick for a period of time you prepare yourself for it. He was unable to prepare himself for it,'' Haywood said.
Hughes credits his brother, who taught him by example, with helping him become a standout tailback. He recalled going to a park near their home regularly with his brother and the two of them working out and throwing the football around.
``He pushed me. He taught me everything I know as far as just growing up. As a young guy playing peewee ball we always used to work out together,'' he said. ``He was such a motivator to my life and what I stand for today.''
Hughes returned home to Chicago on Oct. 30 after being told about the murder, but was back on campus the next day and practiced with the team. Getting back on the field around his friends and coaches helped.
After practice Thursday, coach Charlie Weis drove Hughes back home for the funeral.
``It was really huge for me to actually talk to him and express the way I was feeling,'' Hughes said.
About 50 teammates and coaches attended the funeral on Friday. Hughes returned to campus Friday night and played one play in the game on Saturday, scoring Notre Dame's first touchdown on a 3-yard run. Weis said after the game that he was going to give Hughes as many carries as necessary to score.
Hughes, who has rushed for 45 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries this season, was swarmed by teammates after the TD, then ran over to the sideline and hugged Weis.
``It was really huge for me and my family,'' he said. ``Me getting back here and scoring a touchdown was pretty big, and it was my mother's birthday. So it kind of made her day a little bit.''
Hughes is getting stronger every day, Haywood said. He's talking more about his feelings and getting back into a more normal routine. Weis hopes to get Hughes more involved in the game plan this week. But Weis said he must watch to see how Hughes is doing.
``You have to wait and see if he's in a fog,'' Weis said. ``If he's out there physically, you've got to see if he's going to be out there mentally. So I think that you just have to read it and you have to manage that one. It isn't like you can push it.''
Hughes said he's trying to stay focused and motivated.
``Because I know that's what he would have wanted,'' Hughes said.
Even in death, Tony Hughes is still pushing his little brother to get better.

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