You may remember last spring, in the week before the draft, when Aidan Hutchinson, who was going to be a top-three pick, said openly he wanted to be picked by the Lions. The Michigan resident wanted it, his family wanted it. How cool would it be that a University of Michigan star would actually want to play for the woebegone Lions, and then it would actually work out?
And it did, of course. The Jaguars, picking first, passed on Hutchinson for Travon Walker, and the Lions took about eight seconds to pick Hutchinson. So what did he know, or why was he so intent on coming to a franchise that had been lost at sea for three generations?
“I got the chance to come somewhere and be part of coming alive and building a great team,” he said after the 11-point win over the previously 10-2 Vikings Sunday in Detroit. “I just wanted to come into the season and learn something every single game and make strides every game. I’m happy with my development so far.”
In the third quarter Sunday, with the Lions up 15, Hutchinson sacked Kirk Cousins for a seven-yard loss; the Vikings settled for a field goal on that drive. He had two hits of Cousins and three pressures, continuing a strong rookie year—seven sacks, 43 total pressures.
The Wolverine got him!#MINvsDET | 📺 FOX | #ProBowlVote | @aidanhutch97 pic.twitter.com/2qhCCmIxfJ
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) December 11, 2022
“The chemistry we’ve got right now, it’s kind of unmatched,” Hutchinson said. “We’re so complimentary right now offensively and defensively and we never flinch at the end. It’s no longer the same old Lions. We’ve overcome that. Now we’re on our way to becoming a really good football team.”
Detroit’s been able to score all season, but the turnaround coincided with a defensive improvement. The Lions have allowed 20.3 points a game in their 5-1 run. What’s interesting is that now GM Brad Holmes should be able to use his two first-round picks (Detroit’s, and the one from the Rams from the Matthew Stafford trade) on strengthening the roster rather than zeroing in on a quarterback after Jared Goff has had the kind of resurgent season he needed to have to seal his grip on the job. Maybe they find a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, or a bookend for Hutchinson, or a corner to team with Jeff Okudah. Whatever, with Goff looking better than a short-term fix, this is a team with a significantly brighter near future than we thought back on Labor Day.
With the Giants and Seattle fading, the 6-7 Lions might squeeze into the seventh playoff spot with a 3-1 finish. And 3-1 is possible against this slate: at Jets, at Panthers, Bears, at Packers.
One more thing about Hutchinson. Talk about a local boy. He has lived his football life in the state of Michigan. It’s pretty interesting just how close everything has been for Hutchinson.
Hutchinson went to high school at Divine Child High School in Dearborn. He went to college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He practices in Allen Park, for Detroit in the NFL. He plays at Ford Field in downtown Detroit.
From Divine Child High to Michigan Stadium, as the crow flies: 27.0 miles to the west.
From Divine Child High to the Lions’ practice facility, as the crow flies: 4.7 miles to the southeast.
From Divine Child High to Ford Field, as the crow flies: 13.2 miles to the east.
“It is bizarre, to be honest with you,” Hutchinson said. “I’m taking the same freeway I took to Divine Child on my way to the Lions’ practice facility. I just get off [Interstate] 96 a little bit later. It’s so weird. I’m just so grateful to be in this position and to have the ability to be close to my family. I’m already a homebody. Being in this environment just allows me to thrive. I’m able to be myself.”
Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column