Meet Aidan Hutchinson, NFL’s top prospect heading into 2022 NFL Draft

0 Comments

In the coming weeks, Jacksonville and Detroit and Houston and the Jets and Giants—the teams picking 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in the draft—will poke and prod Hutchinson and his family and his world, as any smart teams should do when thinking of making a huge investment in a high first-round pick.

They should start with his journals.

Once, when he was a young boy, the Hutchinsons were looking for young Aidan. They found him on the front porch, writing in a notebook. He never stopped. He writes about school, friends, family, football, life, TV shows, everything. He still does. Almost every day.

“It’s very beneficial for my mind  This game is just as much mental as it is physical. I’m focused on maintaining that mental and keeping my head on straight,” he said. “Sometimes I got these mantras that I say, kind of repeatedly say them, repeatedly write them down. Some days, I got a lot of things on my mind and I kind of just need to reflect on the day. Put the pen to the paper, and just write and that kind of calms my mind a little bit.”

Those journal entries, those mantras, what are they?

“I’d say a couple of them are just telling myself that I’m limitless. I have an infinite mindset. The power is within me. I hate when people put caps on myself and my ability. It’s something that people have done my whole career. I’ve never listened to them.

“I have no boundaries. There’s no mountain that I can’t reach. That’s how I view myself and me playing football.”

The interesting thing about Hutchinson’s career, at least the first one, is he wasn’t forced into football. His dad was one of the best Michigan defensive players in program history, the team MVP in 1992 as a defensive lineman/outside linebacker. But Chris Hutchinson never forced or covertly urged his son to play football. Aidan fell in love with the game on his own. He was motivated once at Michigan to do one thing—beat Ohio State. He worked with his dad’s Michigan jersey on his wall during college, with a ticket stub attached from the last Michigan win over Ohio State in 2011.

And he worked to make himself a versatile end. He wanted to be great at stopping the run, rushing the passer and being sure no one got around the edge on him. Watch this play against Ohio State. Hutchinson is not just an edge rusher. He can plow a strong tackle back to the quarterback with Aaron Donald-like skill and force.

On that play, if you watch closely, it seems like Hutchinson doesn’t start and finish with the same intention. It looks like instinct took over in mid-snap. I asked him about it, and about playing with instinct.

“This class is frickin’ loaded with talent,” he said. “I think the thing that separates me–I can rush with speed and power–but I think what separates me are my instincts. When I’m out there, I call it my ‘Spidey-sense.’ I’ll feel a play’s coming and then I, most of the time, I’ll trust it and I’ll make a play because of it. I think I just need to continue to keep trusting it because I think my instincts really do separate me and they’re what’s gonna separate me at that next level as well.

“That play  I joke about this with my coach all the time. I call this the pass rushing instincts. Sometimes you go out there and you do some things that you had not practiced ever. You have never done in practice. Your body just kinda takes over.

“In every rush, I have a game plan. Sometimes you gotta work a countermove. That’s where I believe I have that pass-rusher instinct. But there’s only a few guys that have it. I think especially at that next level where your body just kinda takes over and you just win a lot of reps because you have that instinct.”

Now comes the selling part. I think the Jags prefer an edge player with an attitude over a tackle, but we’ll see. The Lions, same thing; Detroit doesn’t want to be stuck with a tackle being the best player on the board with Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell at tackle today. It’s a good time to be Aidan Hutchinson, even in the midst of a great edge market. And whoever picks him will be getting a player and a person with other things in his life. It’s worked for Hutchinson so far.

“I want to be a Hall of Famer,” he said. “I want to be first-team All-Pro. That’s going in the journal, too.”

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column