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Steve Hutchinson: The Heart of a Hall of Famer


CANTON, Ohio — Steve Hutchinson's Pro Football Hall of Fame speech Saturday night blended humor and heart the way the guard combined technique, power and determination during his 12 NFL seasons.

Intense authenticity joined every word of gratitude he extended toward people who helped him punch his ticket to football immortality.

The native of South Florida who became an All-American at Michigan opened by noting the intense rivalry between the Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes.

"If you would have told me prior to my graduation from the University of Michigan that I would be excited about standing in the middle of Ohio in August, I would have said you were crazy, but that is exactly the case. My college coach Lloyd Carr used to ask us, 'Where would you rather be?'

"Well, Coach, my answer is 'nowhere' because as far as I'm concerned, there's not a better place on Earth than Canton, Ohio."

View photos of Vikings Legend Steven Hutchinson from the week he was inducted into the 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class in Canton, Ohio.

Hutchinson has had his sights on Canton since watching enshrinement ceremonies as a child and wondering "if I could ever make it there too."

He became a first-round pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2001 and backed it up before joining the Minnesota Vikings in 2006 as a highly sought free agent who proved to be a team-changing leader.

Teammates, coaches and opponents knew it wasn't a matter of if but when.

The moment became official Saturday night in front of 18,383 fans as he stood in his custom-fit Gold Jacket and saw his bronze bust for the first time, moments after former Seahawks center Robbie Tobeck presented him for enshrinement.

Hutchinson was elected in February 2020 on the eve of Super Bowl LIV. He was in a hotel near his home town when he got "The Knock" from Pro Football Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker.

His wife Landyn captured the emotional reaction from inside the room — more palpable than many things in an ever-increasing digital world. Hugs between the couple and their daughter, Lily, and son, Luke, followed.

They were there for "The Knock" in Hutchinson's third year of eligibility as he became the 335th inductee and learned the news at 3:35 p.m. (ET). They also know what "the call" had meant in previous years.

And although the enshrinement for the Centennial Class of 2020 was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the family was able to celebrate together on Saturday.

"Lily and Luke, I thought the days you were born were going to be the best two of my life," Hutchinson said from the stage, choking up. "That was just the start.

"Lily, when I look at you, I see so much of myself. You are strong, brave and beautiful," he continued. "That little girl who stole my heart has grown into a young woman I am extremely proud of. Always maintain that passion, that fire and that great personality, no matter what path you choose.

"Luke, watching you grow up is like rewinding my life. It's crazy to see the amount of similarities we shared at that age," Hutchinson said. "I always wish I could go back and tell myself something to help myself in the future. If I could go back now, I'd tell myself not to fear failure, but to fear not giving it your all. You are everything I could have asked for in a son, and watching you grow up warms my heart. Have as much confidence in you as I do. It's going to be fun watching you figure yourself out in these next few years. I need both of you to figure out how incredibly proud I am to be your dad. This might look like my biggest accomplishment, but being your dad always has and will be my greatest honor."

View photos of former Vikings G Steve Hutchinson receiving his gold jacket in Canton, Ohio as he's enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He then thanked Landyn for being by his side since eighth grade and forming a great team that enabled him to focus on his career to reach his goals.

"You always found a way to lift my spirits after a bad game, bring me countless bags of ice after numerous surgeries, raise two great kids and somehow find a way to have dinner made, errands run and handle the bills all while having that unmistakable smile on your face," Hutchinson said. "I could talk for days about how much you mean to me, but you already know that. I'm incredibly proud to be your husband, and I love you."

Baker described the opportunity to welcome Hutchinson to one of the most exclusive clubs ever created. Hutchinson realized Friday during a Gold Jacket luncheon that he was no longer an admirer but a member.

"People talk about how great it is to deliver 'The Knock' on the door of these guys, but I also have to call the guys who don't make it," Baker said. "There were several years where I called Hutch and said, 'I hope to have better news.' When I finally knocked on his door, he was — you've probably seen the video of him pacing back and forth — he was elated. It was special. He was crying, big ol' Hutch.

"When that happens, they're not thinking about how much money they made or how many Super Bowl rings or Pro Bowls they had," Baker added. "I'm sure he was thinking about his mom or dad, or the coach that inspired him or his teammates. That's what I love capturing for a guy like Hutch. When we put that Gold Jacket on him [Friday], it was like the whole history of the league, from the first time they laced up a pigskin to the last time [Commissioner Roger Goodell] presented a Lombardi Trophy. I think Steve Hutchinson — I've got a prediction for all of you Minnesota Vikings fans — is going to be a great Hall of Famer."

Hutchinson started all 169 regular-season games he played, helped Shaun Alexander and Adrian Peterson lead the NFL in rushing in separate seasons, and garnered seven Pro Bowls and five First-Team All-Pro selections. He went entire seasons without committing a penalty twice for a life of anonymity in the eyes of many fans and delivering a technical excellence backed by brute force.

"There's different types of players, but he would be considered a mauler," Tobeck said in a video introduction before helping Hutchinson unveil his bust. "It's not always good enough to just block a guy. Steve wanted to finish a guy.

"Getting into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is a dream for some and a goal for others," Tobeck added. "Steve came in from day one, 'I want to be the best in the league. I want to be a Hall of Famer.' Those are stated goals. You really have to admire a guy like that who is willing to come out and have the courage to put himself out there and have the courage to do the work that it takes to be there."

Word was out and validated by the time Hutchinson arrived in Minnesota in 2006.

Guard Randall McDaniel, who was enshrined in 2009, didn't get to play with Hutchinson, but he did watch him.

"I liked the way he played when the Vikings brought him in, the nastiness to go after guys," McDaniel said. "That's what you've got to be to be a good lineman. We're the hammer, and everybody else is the nail. That's why I loved the way Steve finished the blocks.

"He's being rewarded for what he did on the field," McDaniel added. "No one knows what we're doing out there unless we're doing something wrong, but in the end your teammates know, and he's right where he should be. He's on that team now. The joke is you can never be cut from this team, even after you die."

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman, who joined Minnesota's personnel department in 2005, said Hutchinson led by example.

"He went with the approach every week that he was going to beat his man, and to see him physically dominate … until the whistle blew, to show his presence on the field, that's why he's in the Hall of Fame," said Spielman, who grew up in Canton and Massillon, Ohio, and bought Christmas presents for his brother Chris at the Hall of Fame gift shop.

Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway was picked in the same spot (17th overall) in 2006, five years after Hutchinson was drafted. The rookie quickly looked to the incoming veteran for on-field and off-field lessons that resonated.

"I was a better 17th overall pick," Greenway joked. "I think he would tell you the same thing. He would be honest about it.

"I think when you're a linebacker going against an offensive lineman, you understand that you're going against something different," Greenway said. "There's a lot of players that I could beat and beat repeatedly and get my way, and there's guys that played across the league — Brian Waters with the Chiefs was different, and Steve was that guy. To get to play against him in practice and really sharpen your iron against the best in the world. Steve was certainly that. He was so strong and built unlike anybody else, and I think the way that Steve separated himself to me was his ability with his mind — a very smart guy, always had his body in the right position. So he had the physical ability that he was born with and worked for but also the mental capability to be ahead of you."

Greenway is forever grateful for a locker placement next to Hutchinson's at Winter Park, the Vikings former headquarters.

"I learned a lot from him, by watching him, by taking it all in," Greenway said. "Steve is not the most talkative guy, but you know when you get on his good side and when you become one of the clan.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Steve and how he played the game and what he stood for and his family," Greenway added. "I emulated what he did with his family and how he interacted. Just a great dude, rough around the edges, but I always respected the way he approached the game."

Hutchinson thanked his parents for their "selflessness and unwavering support" and for teaching him the value of hard work, as well as other family members.

He also credited coaches and teammates at all levels of football, ownerships and support staff members with the Seahawks, Vikings and Titans for whom he played, fans, the Hall of Fame and its volunteers that make this weekend an incredible destination.

Lastly, he encouraged others to set goals, pursue them and turn dreams into realities.

"To the kids out there who are dreaming of playing in those stadiums or wondering if you could one day be up here as well, never give up on your dreams," Hutchinson said. "Hard work and dedication are two necessary ingredients for success, but you can't do it alone. Lean on that parent, that grandparent, friend, coach or teammate.

"Success isn't always comfortable or easy. It requires sacrifice," he added. "I remember back to my freshman year of high school, walking out to the first of two practices in South Florida heat while many of my friends were hanging out at the beach or the pool. I had made a choice then that I wanted to be great, and I never looked back."