As fate would have it, new Lions pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson shared the stage with Detroit legend Matthew Stafford on the eve of the NFL draft. The two NFL stars took part in Courtyard by Marriott’s “Bistro & Banter” event in Las Vegas amid plenty of buzz that they were about share a strong connection to the Lions.
The dimly lit room felt half speakeasy, half fan fest as select individuals were awarded VIP access to the draft by opening up cards they were handed upon entry. At the event, 30 fans were lucky enough to receive a literal golden ticket for a one-of-a-kind experience during draft week. The Lions are hoping Hutchinson can be their own golden ticket in the franchise’s continual quest to reach the Super Bowl.
The college football season ended with Hutchinson being the favorite to be the No. 1 pick. With just weeks to go before the draft, a growing buzz began to emerge that the Jaguars were instead considering Georgia linebacker Travon Walker with the top slot. All this led to a Courtyard by Marriott event that had plenty of connections to the Lions, even if it is was all unofficial at the time with Hutchinson’s uncertain NFL fate.
After the “Bistro & Banter” session, Heavy was one of a select few media outlets to hold court with Hutchinson and Stafford. With 24 hours to go, I said the quiet thing out loud asking Hutchinson if he had a chance to talk with Stafford about “hypothetically” joining the Lions. Hutchinson smiled admitting that he had the “potential” to join the Lions, not wanting to jinx his status with his future team.
“A little bit, we talked about it, but, I mean, I’m growing up a Michigan guy, so I know a little bit about Detroit sports and Michigan,” Hutchinson said of the Lions connection. “Yeah, definitely cool that we’re sharing this, for sure, especially with the potential that I end up in Detroit. So yeah, definitely very cool”
Stafford on Hutchinson: ‘He Seems Like He Has a Pretty Good Head on His Shoulders’
As the night ended, Hutchinson and Stafford shared a brief conversation and appeared to exchange numbers. The once face of the Lions franchise would return to his new life in Los Angeles, while the journey is just getting started for Hutchinson in Detroit. Stafford was asked what advice he had for Hutchinson as he began his pro career.
“Yeah, I mean, he seems like he has a pretty good head on his shoulders, so I’m not too worried about it but, to be honest with you, just enjoy it,” Stafford explained. “Enjoy tomorrow [draft day], tomorrow’s going to be a special day for him and his family, all the people that helped him get to this position. And then, whenever he figures out where he’s going, just embrace it. Have fun with it. There’s going to be good times, there’s going to be bad times. Learn from all of ’em. Trust all the guys around him to help him get there, and just put his head down and go to work. He’ll be just fine.”
Stafford on Super Bowl: ‘There Were a Few Years in Detroit Where…It Felt Pretty Far Off’
During Super Bowl week, some “Detroit Rams” shirts emerged as Lions fans showed their support for Stafford despite being traded to Los Angeles. Yet for all the mutual admiration, Stafford’s Detroit tenure ended without a playoff victory, and the Lions are hoping Hutchinson can help the team achieve something they were unable to do with their former quarterback: bring a Super Bowl to the Motor City. Stafford opened up about his experience winning a Super Bowl in Los Angeles and admitted “there were a few years in Detroit where, to be honest with you, it felt pretty far off.”
“I think once you get a taste of what it’s like to hoist the Lombardi, and celebrate with your teammates and your coaches and your family and friends, to me, it only makes me want it more,” Stafford explained. “I want to do it again. It was something that there were a few years in Detroit where, to be honest with you, it felt pretty far off. Something that may or may not happen. Getting to achieve that with a great group of guys was a whole lot of fun. What a cool team achievement that was, and looking forward to trying to do that again. Give it a run.”
Hutchinson: ‘It Was Lions All the Way’
The Lions may have set the record for the quickest pick of the 2022 draft as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell re-took the stage just minutes after announcing the Jaguars’ selection of Walker. There were no more hypotheticals as Hutchinson bounced on the stage wearing his new Lions hat. After the draft, Hutchinson got candid about his desire to land in Detroit noting, “it was the Lions all the way.”
“It was such an honor to be on that stage and be picked by the Lions,” Hutchinson told reporters on April 28 minutes after being selection by the Lions. “It was the Lions all the way, the whole draft process I wanted them to pick me, and I’m so grateful that I went No. 2 to them. It was so good, definitely I’m just still trying to process it a little bit.”