Aidan Hutchinson works to fulfill his own Michigan football legacy with the Big Ten title


Once the clock hit zero after Michigan’s victory over Ohio State, Aidan Hutchinson threw both arms in the air and burst into tears. His visualization that he could help change the program’s culture and legacy, along with four years of pent-up emotion, all passed by then.

He took a risk by rejecting the NFL after his junior year, while receiving first and second round grades, so he could come back and establish a legacy in Michigan. Surrounded by thousands of fans after a dominant three-sack, 15-quarterback pressure performance that sent the Wolverines to the Big Ten Championship game, he knew his decision had paid off.

“He’s the epitome of Bo (Schembechler’s) comment, ‘Those who stay will be champions,’ said his father, Chris, an All-American Michigan defensive lineman in the ’90s.“ Hopefully Saturday night , but no matter what happens in this game, he stuck and he’s a champion. “

An ankle injury in Game 3 of the 2020 season cut short his season and derailed his goals to come out and increase his NFL Draft supply. He was still not very healthy this summer. He could still function on his ankle, but the swelling persisted and Chris, an emergency room doctor at a local hospital, was holding his breath to see how it would hold up all season.

Before the season, Hutchinson had been presented as a good player with a lot of potential. He had the size and the skills, but it wasn’t all right on the pitch.

On Big Ten media days in August, he spoke of being 0-2 against Ohio State, remembering sitting on the bench when Michigan lost 56-27 in 2019. He felt the weight of it. ‘being down more than two touchdowns and not being able to do anything about it. The helplessness he felt that day made him focus on everything he had about this season.

He had two goals at the start of the season: to beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten.

“These are the two things I care about the most,” he said on the “In The Trenches” podcast in August. “And I think if I play well this season, and we beat Ohio State, and we win the Big Ten Championship, that will fulfill my legacy.”

As a child, Hutchinson wrote down his goals in notebooks, and one of his goals was to play for the University of Michigan. In the family home, Chris’s white Rose Bowl jersey with the same number 97 that Aidan wears, is framed on the wall with a plaque that reads “University of Michigan Big Ten Champions 1988-1992”. The shirt sits behind a display of championship rings that Chris had accumulated during his playing career, five in total.

On the same shelf as the Championship Rings are three individual awards Aidan won in Michigan, including Rookie of the Year and the Richard Katcher Award for Team’s Best Defensive Lineman. There are no Big Ten Championship rings or team awards, and that was something Aidan was looking to change.

Another reminder of what it would take to add to this collection, Hutchinson recorded a ticket to the Michigan-Ohio State game in 2011, the last time Michigan beat Ohio State, on his father’s jersey.

“On our coat we have all the pictures of the kids up there and there’s a picture of (Aidan) passing against (Nebraska quarterback Adrian) Martinez when he was a freshman,” Chris said. . “I see the big 97 and that has always been my 97. When he had 9.5 bags I said, ‘Well, 9.5 is not 11′”

“It is the epitome of Bo (Schembechler’s) comment: ‘Those who stay will be champions.’ Hopefully in a big way on Saturday night, but whatever happens in this game, he stuck and he’s a champion. ”

Former Michigan All-American Chris Hutchinson, father of Aidan Hutchinson

It was a coincidence that Hutchinson would get the chance to break his father’s record against Ohio State, while Chris also reached 11 points against Ohio State in his final season.

But it wasn’t a coincidence that the Wolverines entered last Saturday’s game with everything on the line. A win put them in the Big Ten championship game against Iowa and in first place for their first place in the playoffs. college football.

“There is no doubt that we are not in the position we are in today without Aidan Hutchison,” said coach Jim Harbaugh.

While recovering from his ankle injury, which put him out of spring training, Hutchinson spent several months working his body as much as he could and studying film. He kept telling his parents that something seemed different to him. He wasn’t just a freshman entering his second season. He was one of the leaders of the team and had to convey his confidence to the rest of the players.

“When he entered his final year, this leadership role, he was so unabashed in his approach and his philosophy, his integrity, his enthusiasm,” said Melissa. “Everyone who had that in them and felt that, the younger ones, were encouraged to show all of this and be all of that. Aidan had this open door approach of everyone on the team has to bring all that. they put it all on the table, with all their hearts. “

He led by example, pushing himself to do one or two more reps when he thought he couldn’t in the weight room. He was thrilled to play in the system of new defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald. He was a constant presence in the locker room, reminding his teammates not only that they have a goal, but that they can to achieve this. This mentality was not present during Michigan’s 2020 2-4 season.

“Aidan is a hugely influential person. While he doesn’t just have the most impact on a pitch that a defensive player can have, I think the role he has on this team is so important not only to be a leader, but like, helping other team leaders like me and Josh (Ross), ”said quarterback Cade McNamara. “Just hearing Aidan’s opinion is also very important. He has contributed so much to the change and the mindset of this team and we really appreciate him and especially not just his game but also his leadership.”

When the swelling in his ankle subsided until the end of summer and fall camp, he was ready to go. In the first four games of the season, Hutchinson tallied 5.5 sacks, more than he had in the previous three years combined. He entered the game against Ohio State with 10 and a shot at breaking his father’s record.

As Michigan led 7-0 in the first quarter, Ohio State had to score a third and a goal on Michigan’s 8-yard line. Hutchinson placed offensive tackle Dawand Jones on the outside, made a cut on the inside and pushed his way past Jones, leading until he finally finished the Ohio State quarterback. CJ Stroud to equalize his father’s stats total.

Hutchinson recorded two more sacks in the game to beat his father and set Michigan’s single-season record with 13.

It was a goal to beat his father’s number, but Hutchinson didn’t mind the stats themselves. He told the “In The Trenches” podcast in August: “Obviously you can make all the parts you want, you can make all the bags, the TFLs, but you don’t have a ring? a feeling of dissatisfaction there. “

The exhilaration of beating Ohio State and being on the cusp of a conference title is part of Hutchinson’s vision. Now, as a Heisman nominee and fifth draft prospect according to Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, Hutchinson finally has a chance to put some rings on that shelf alongside his dad, should the Wolverines beat Iowa.

As the season approached, he realized this was his last attempt to help change the trajectory of this team and how he would be remembered. Questions were asked during the Big Ten media days at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, about how this year is different and why he returned.

On Saturday, he will return to Lucas Oil Stadium with the aim of changing everything and proving that this year was different.

“I invested so much of my energy. Mental energy, physical energy, to give all that I have,” Hutchinson said at the time. “I’m back for my last round here, and when I tell you I gave it my all – from guys spring ball training, to summer conditioning training, winter conditioning, rehab of that ankle – I’ve done everything for my body, what I put in there, to make sure we’re successful this season. I’m willing to die for that, I swear.

“I want it more than anyone, I promise you.”


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