The Detroit Lions seemed to turn over a new leaf mentally in 2022, and arguably, the biggest reasons why was the emergence of rookie defensive star Aidan Hutchinson.
After being the second-overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, Hutchinson came to his hometown Lions and made a huge impact on the field. The rookie season was impressive for the youngster, who played a leading role in a revival which saw the team rebound from a 1-6 start to finish up 9-8 on the year.
As a result, fans can feel the tide beginning to turn in the Motor City, and players like Hutchinson are right there with them. Joining Heavy’s Matt Lombardo during the Super Bowl, the star rookie admitted that he feels like the team is building something, and has the momentum to sustain it into the future.
“I think we’re really building something in Detroit. And, you know, we had a pretty rocky start, but we finished very well,” Hutchinson said, on a recent episode of Heavy’s The Matt Lombardo Show, appearing on behalf of Courtyard by Marriott. “I think it’s gonna give us a lot of momentum going into next year, we got everyone back on our team, no one’s contract (is up). So, I’m really excited. And I think we’ll be a team to watch in the NFL next year.”
Two notable clashes that helped the Lions on their way to becoming that potential team to watch were against the rival Green Bay Packers, and Hutchinson made a statement in both. He was hard to miss on the field soaring for a clutch interception amid Detroit’s 15-9 win on November 6.
Perhaps not surprisingly, when pressed by Lombardo about who his favorite quarterback to sack during his rookie season was, Hutchinson didn’t hesitate in naming Detroit’s classic rival and tormentor.
“Aaron Rodgers … No doubt,” Hutchinson said on the show.
Indeed, Hutchinson was a thorn in Rodgers’ side all year long, which was a welcome sight to Lions fans. After the interception in November, he managed to collect two sacks of Rodgers in the season finale on January 8, 2023. It was a statement-making performance within a 20-16 victory for Detroit.
Hutchinson joined the show to discuss his partnership with Courtyard by Marriott’s Super Bowl Sleepover contest. Additionally, Courtyard will be launching a social media contest to bring a lucky fan to the NFL Draft, where they’ll receive the VIP treatment in Kansas. The contest will be open from February 15 through March 15.
When listening to him speak, it’s clear that Hutchinson has major faith in the Lions becoming force in the NFL. The way the team started and then finished has shown him that Detroit is developing the moxie to be a contender very soon.
Hutchinson: Dan Campbell ‘Everything Lions Need’
In terms of a reason the Lions are positioned to be a team on the rise, there’s one person that everyone seems to single out in head coach Dan Campbell, and Hutchinson is no different.
On the show, Hutchinson was asked by Lombardo to share stories about his unique head coach. As he explained, he’s the total package for the Lions in terms of a guy who not only knows how to be serious at key moments, but have some major fun with his players as well to break up the monotony of the weekly grind during an NFL regular season.
“I think he’s everything we need in Detroit. And he’s one of those guys that’s been such a staple for us. Talk about those Wednesday meetings, he’s always kind of cracking and putting in jokes, cracking jokes, right at the end of the meeting, as we’re all getting out of there,” Hutchinson told Lombardo. “So, he’s really been great. And you know, I love having him as a head coach. He works with the players so well. He’s definitely a guy that the players want to have in there. He’s always got our backs, and it’s been great for all of us.”
Campbell has long been seen as a coach that has his locker room’s best interest in mind, and as Hutchinson knows, that could be a vital attribute toward helping the Lions take a leap forward in the coming years on the field.
Hutchinson’s Rookie Season Impressive
This past season, there were few rookies as impactful as Hutchinson was on the field consistently. Not only did he lead by his words, but by example with his strong play as well.
Hutchinson collected 9.5 total sacks, which was most for a rookie player in the league. He also had three interceptions to his credit as well as 52 total tackles to help show he was not a one-trick pony. Most of the year, he was a menace to opposing passers in plenty of different ways, showing off his ball skills routinely.
Hutchinson would go on to claim the Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Year honor, and finished as the runner up for the AP Rookie Defensive Player of the Year to cornerback Sauce Gardner for his work. It was as impressive as a season as a Detroit rookie has enjoyed since Ndamukong Suh in 2010.
With this kind of performance as a rookie, there is no reason why Hutchinson can’t help the team become a quick force in the future and have the kind of turnaround he talks about. Combined with Campbell, the team seems to have the right ingredients to take a leap forward in 2023 and beyond.