"I need to deviate around some buildup," he radioed the control tower.
A few tilts and turns later, we were again flying in sunny skies. Not that anyone in the six-seat plane was worried.
I'd trust my life to Huyghue. At that point, I didn't have much choice.
The UFL commissioner had invited us along for a flight from Orlando to St. Petersburg. It would be a good way to gauge the man who is trying to get the new league off the ground.
This is the story of 84 Mike Hotel, Huyghue's airborne office. In the likely case of metaphor overload, oxygen masks will not drop from your ceiling.
Will this UFL's takeoff be smooth? Can Huyghue deviate around the buildup of skepticism? What's to say the league won't turn into the Spruce Goose? Or worse yet, the XFL?
I intended to ask all those questions. But first I needed to finish kissing the ground at Albert Whitted Airport.
"Any landing is a good landing," Huyghue said.
For him it was just another smooth hop in a crazy day. It began early at his home in Ponte Vedra, Fla. Huyghue made a quick jump down to Orlando, where the Florida Tuskers and New York Sentinels have been training.
Huyghue was a lot more concerned about covering the 60-feet, 6 inches from the mound to home plate than the 106 miles between Orlando and St. Pete. For those of us who don't spend a lot of time in aluminum cans 7,000 feet above the ground, the journey wasn't quite so routine.
"Now hold on," Jim Haslett said. "You're not flying it?"
He's a former NFL linebacker. He coached the Saints for six seasons and is now the Tuskers head coach.
If Haslett could be apprehensive about being a passenger on the Huyghue Express, who was I not to have JFK Jr. flashbacks?
"I gotta call my wife and make sure we've got life insurance," Haslett said.
He was half-kidding. Haslett's been in plenty of small planes, but there's always something disconcerting when the pilot isn't some Sully Sullenberger type wearing a starched blue uniform with gold piping.
Huyghue was in a golf shirt and slacks. He seemed to know what he was doing as he walked around the Piper Malibu, checking the wings, propeller, fuel and whatever else pilots do to make sure they don't end up making emergency landings in a cornfield. Huyghue wiggled his way into the pilot's seat and put on his headset.
"Eighty-Four Mike Hotel, I'd like to pick up IFR to Albert Whitted," he said.
He revved the engines, and before I knew it we were airborne. I started taking in the sights, the most impressive being Haslett falling asleep before we were 100 feet off the ground.
The trip was pure obligation for a football coach who much preferred to stay buried in preparations for the season opener. All Haslett could bring was a sheet of paper with the Tuskers' depth chart, which he stared at while his eyes were still open.
At least his bad right shoulder flared up just in time to save him from risking humiliation. Huyghue was going to pinch first-pitch for him, assuming that Donald Trump of a cloud didn't devour our plane.
So why do little planes sometimes fall off the radar?
"It's almost never the equipment," Huyghue said. "Most of the time it's pilot error."
Huyghue assured me he's IFR certified, meaning if we crashed it wouldn't be because he couldn't fly by instruments only. He got his pilot's license three years ago. It was for business, not pleasure.
After graduation from Michigan Law School he went to work for the NFL Players Association. At 29, he became the general manager of the Birmingham Fire of the NFL's World League of American Football.
He eventually became the Senior Vice President of Football Operations for Jacksonville. The expansion Jaguars quickly became a power and Huyghue was one of the NFL's golden boys.
Being lazy and minimally talented, I usually resent smart guys who get up at 4 a.m. to shape the world. But Huyghue knows how to charm and cajole, and those skills led him to becoming an agent.
It's a lot easier getting in and out of places like Tuscaloosa and Lubbock when you don't have to depend on commercial flights. So Huyghue invested $1 million in a plane. With a top speed of 240 mph, he uses it for trips that aren't long enough to require a movie and a meal.
That more or less explains how we ended up getting from Orlando to St. Pete in 44 minutes, even during rush hour.
Tampa Bay 's ownership group also owns the Tuskers, and the Rays were playing the Mariners that night. We got to Tropicana Field in plenty of time for the UFL duo to hang out behind the batting cages and talk baseball.
"I came in between towers with 1,000 feet descent," Ken Griffey Jr. told Huyghue.
I'm not sure what that meant, but Griffey had flown in about an hour earlier from his Orlando home. They talked about whatever pilots of small planes talk about, then went about their business.
"Can I get season tickets?" Griffey yelled as he walked away.
That shouldn't be a problem.
We're talking the UFL, not U2. The four teams have averaged about 2,000 pre-sold tickets, which is lower than hoped but not surprising. Or so Huyghue explained to a radio interviewer.
"It's priced like minor-league baseball but it's NFL-quality football,'' he said.
Huyghue has spent the past few months answering the same questions about UFL viability, Michael Vick, the bad economy and the Tuskers' funny name. He treats every local radio guy like he's Jim Rome and every question like it's the first time he's heard it.
"I was the face of the league until not long ago," Huyghue said.
He didn't want it that way. It's just that there weren't a lot of other faces around. California investment banker Bill Hambrecht approached him two years ago with an idea for a new league.
History is littered the wreckage of WFL, USFL, WLAF and XFL misadventures. But Huyghue thought an NFL rival could work under the right conditions.
Condition No. 1 -- don't try to be an NFL rival.
Trump's fantasies and spending turned the USFL into a suicide mission. Vince "XFL" McMahon's faux soap opera/football show was laughed off the field, though He Hate Me lived on.
The UFL would have a $20 million salary cap, play in the fall and tap into the endless supply of borderline NFL players. It would champion new media, from on-line broadcasts to fan interactivity to almost unlimited TV access.
The concept needed a point man, and Huyghue was intrigued by the opportunity. He also gave the UFL instant access to NFL offices.
"They said, 'He's not crazy. Let's at least listen to him," Huyghue said.
He set about filling the faceless jobs that run a league. Accountants, officials, security. There were host cities to find, owners to secure, stadiums to lease, TV networks to pitch, coaches to sign.
"I knew the easiest part of this whole deal would be getting players," Huyghue said.
If you're a player, what's not to like about the UFL besides the $35,000 base salary? They can stay in game shape, get exposure and sign with NFL teams after the season ends on Thanksgiving.
"While it doesn't offer the bright lights of the NFL, they're not going to be embarrassed to play in this league," Huyghue said.
They might be if the commissioner threw like a girl. The 48-year-old Huyghue played football and baseball at Cornell, but he hasn't had much time lately to play catch.
He was just happy to make it to his daughter's volleyball game a night earlier. Most of the time was spent working his BlackBerry, but at least she knew he was there.
"I may have looked up three times to see points," Huyghue said.
He made a point not to tell his three kids to check out the Rays game that night, just in case his right arm failed him. The Rays had a blue jersey with "HASLETT" on the back.
"Joining him on the field is UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue," the announcer said.
He didn't get a personalized jersey. He did manage to get the pitch to the catcher.
"It wasn't a dribbler," Huyghue said.
After an inning of skybox schmoozing, we headed back to the airport. The plane was revving before Griffey came to bat a second time.
As we rose over Tampa Bay, the only light came from a crescent moon and the glow of the instrument panel. Then the northern sky turned into a huge flash pot.
"It's always a good idea to turn away from lightning," Huyghue said.
We flew over Disney World a few minutes early for the 9 p.m. fireworks. Haslett wouldn't have seen them, anyway. He stirred about the time we landed.
Just another day at the Piper office.
"It can be kind of boring, to tell you the truth," Huyghue said.
Maybe for him. I'd gained a whole new appreciation for flight attendants and lavatories. As for the commissioner, I'd gained a whole new appreciation of what goes into getting a league off the ground.
Huyghue's day wasn't even over. He had to fly to Fort Lauderdale to catch a 6 a.m. commercial flight to Las Vegas. From there he would hop to Phoenix, back to Vegas, over to Los Angeles and then to San Francisco in the next 48 hours, then catch a red-eye back east and start filing new flight plans.
Huyghue wasn't even sure how many days there were until the first kick. He just knew it was coming soon.
"You don't really have time to reflect," he said. "You just get up each day and fight the battle."
Will it end in victory over history?
Check back in a couple of years. All I know is that if the UFL does go down, it probably won't be due to pilot error.