The Wolverine

January 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 23 of 67

24 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2022 BY CHRIS BALAS W hen the clock struck zero on Michigan's 42-3 win over Iowa in the Big Ten championship game, Aidan Hutchinson sprinted over to the stands. The star defensive end's father, former Wolverine All-America defensive tackle Chris (1992), and mother, Melissa, were waiting with happy tears in their eyes, about to endure more when their son was named game MVP a few minutes later. Hutchinson 'only' notched four tackles in the victory, but his relentless pressure necessitated extra attention, and he was a huge part of building the wall up front against the running game. Iowa managed only 104 yards rushing on 3.2 per attempt, and the U-M front seven was outstanding. "I'm so proud of you!" Chris Hutchin- son said from the stands, leaning over to embrace his son. "That was so freaking awesome!" Aidan's competitive side got the better of him, but only for a moment. "I never knew you didn't play in this game," Aidan chided. "I never knew you didn't have to play in a championship game. I never knew that! Your champion- ships are B.S.!" His dad's five rings would suggest otherwise, but make no mistake, father would have traded all five for his son to get just one. It turned out he didn't have to. The Heisman Trophy runner-up led his team there on his own, to one of the most im- probable titles in school history. He'd finish with a team-record 14 sacks, plus 15.5 tackles for loss among his 58 stops. His 15 pressures against Ohio State were the most in a game since Pro Football Fo- cus started tracking the stat collegiately in 2014. But none of mattered to him. He just wanted the championship and to return Michigan to glory — to where his fa- ther left it in 1992 as a five-time Big Ten champ and All-America defensive line- man himself. "The video, or the still [shot], that sums his whole legacy up is at the end of the Ohio State game — this is almost going to choke me up — when it's done, you see him raising his arms and literally bawling his eyes out," Chris Hutchinson said. "You can just feel what this kid has put into it. It was such an emotional event for him. It was great to see. "This was true, genuine emotion. This kid loves this program. He accomplished his goals. His team is right where it wants to be. It's picture perfect, and to see the kid go through that and just be genuine on the field, it was beautiful." Three of his 14 sacks came against the Buckeyes. The aftermath was a whirlwind shared by the entire family. Fans flooded a snowy field at The Big House to cele- brate the Wolverines' first win over their heated rival in a decade, but the rest of the Hutchinsons weren't going to be de- nied the chance to share the moment with Aidan. "Right after the game when everyone stormed the field, it was every man for himself," Melissa Hutchinson told ESPN during the Heisman Trophy ceremony. "My daughter and I just took off. That was the goal — to find him. We found him in the middle somehow — I don't know how that happened — and all of us just stood there and hugged, everybody scream- ing. He kept saying, 'I can't even believe this. This is the most glorious night of my life!'" She, too, gets choked up at the sight of her son celebrating his moment, having watched the video several times. For the younger Hutchinson, the dream started long ago when he was just a child. The Plymouth, Mich., native had maize and blue posters on his walls, and a dream of following in his father's footsteps. He continued to improve every year, filling out and getting his 6-6 height — well, from someone other than his 6-2 father. But he had his father's huge heart, blos- soming not only into an incredible physi- cal specimen, but also one with his dad's same qualities when it came to desire and relentless pursuit. Even then, his dad wasn't certain if his son was ready to play at a school like Michigan. He asked former teammate and friend Doug Skene, an All-Big Ten offen- sive lineman on the 1992 squad, to watch the film and offer an opinion. Skene gave the nod of approval. "That seems ridiculous now," Chris Hutchinson said with a laugh. Skene saw a lot of the elder Hutchinson in the son and was confident he would live up to the legacy. That was never the inten- tion, though, Chris insisted. "When we were raising Aidan, we wanted him to blaze his own path," he said. "I didn't want him to be a football player unless he wanted to be a football player. We let him choose his path, and I think that's very important and that's what led him to have this much determi- nation, because he wanted it. … I didn't want it for him. "He's the one who wanted it. He wanted to choose my number [97]. He wanted to create his own legacy. Even though I had some records at Michigan, he was deter- mined to break those records and deter- mined to say, 'I know you have five rings, Dad — but I got one.'" He doesn't have it yet, but it's on or- der, and he'll get it soon enough. Like his father, he left a legacy to remember, one perhaps his own son will look to emulate somewhere down the road if he chooses to have one of his own. Michigan fans can only hope. ❑ LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON Aidan Hutchinson Joined His Dad As A Big Ten Champion And Surpassed Him In The Record Books

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