Douglas sidesteps the topic, choosing instead to heap praise on his defensive mates. As teams scheme against the talented duo of Simon and Thomas in the middle, Douglas has seen, and feasted upon, more one-on-one blocking. He is also much improved against the run (as his 41 tackles attest). The success, according to several teammates, is the product of an intense work ethic. "His effort is extraordinary," says defensive tackle Brandon Whiting. "No one works harder than Hugh. He's so tired after games, he's almost always the last guy to leave the stadium. You can tell he feels fortunate to be in the league by the way he works, by how generous and good-hearted he is. It's impossible for Hugh not to rub off on you."
As Whiting speaks, Douglas leans far back into his stall, tending to his precious Afro, apparently finished for the afternoon. The locker room is emptying. Only corner-back Bobby Taylor stands nearby, stealing a glance in Douglas's direction. Which is all the opening Douglas needs.
So it begins. "Hey, Bobby, what's up? Come on over here! Hey, man...wanna piece of candy?"