By the time Steve Hutchinson arrived in Minnesota in 2006, he had earned multiple monikers, including All-Pro and Pro Bowler.
Those distinctions of national recognition continued for multiple seasons, but more importantly for Vikings teammates, coaches and staff, Hutchinson was A DIFFERENCE MAKER.
The ripple was felt from his first practice, through his final snap in Purple. His impact lasted beyond his career, visible in the play of those he influenced, as well as their community commitments that he inspired.
The guard combined technique, power and determination during his 12 NFL seasons, demonstrating the heart of a Hall of Famer whether or not others were watching.
The ultimate confirmation of this began at 3:35 p.m. (ET) on Feb. 1, 2020, the eve of Super Bowl LIV near his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Hutchinson received "The Knock" from Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker, informing his election as the 335th member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Baker has since retired but attended Sunday's game against Dallas to present Hutchinson with this Ring of Excellence, the third element bestowed to a Hall of Famer. The Gold Jacket and bronze bust are the other two.
The presentation occurred during halftime with a special video introduction by Vikings Legend Adrian Peterson.
Earlier Sunday, Hutchinson had surprised Baker with a loud knock on the door of his Omni Viking Lakes hotel room. Hutchinson presented Baker with a framed artwork that featured stylized prints of the first 13 Hall of Fame enshrinees who spent most of their careers with Minnesota.
While Hutchinson was one of the fastest guards ever elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Class of 2020's enshrinement weekend in Canton, Ohio, was postponed until this August because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It just made everything sweeter for Hutchinson and his family. Wife Landyn, daughter Lily and son Luke had been in the hotel room when Hutchinson received the news and guest starred in a video that went viral. Speaking of them from the enshrinement stage stopped Hutchinson in his tracks, which isn't the easiest thing to do.
"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 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."
Vikings Legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Hutchinson honored during halftime of the Vikings-Cowboys Sunday Night Football game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Celebrate the induction of Hutchinson into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with an exclusive free poster (while supplies last) at the Vikings Museum and be the first to see his special Hall of Fame exhibit on view until Nov. 30!
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 on-field 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."
Hutchinson started all 169 regular-season games he played for Seattle, Minnesota and Tennessee. He helped Shaun Alexander and Peterson lead the NFL in rushing in separate seasons, and he garnered seven Pro Bowls and five First-Team All-Pro selections. Hutchinson went entire seasons without committing a penalty twice. It made for a life of anonymity in the eyes of many fans while delivering a technical excellence backed by brute force.
"There's different types of players, but he would be considered a mauler," Robbie Tobeck said in a video that presented Hutchinson for enshrinement before helping unveil his former teammate's 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."
Hutchinson was a significant factor in the Vikings improving from 6-10 in his first season to 8-8 in 2007 and 10-6 with a playoff appearance in 2008. The progression led to a 12-4 showing in 2009 when Minnesota advanced to the NFC Championship.
"I just believe it all starts up front. He was a tempo-setter, much like when we got Jon Runyan in Philadelphia," said Brad Childress, Minnesota's head coach during that climb. "It changed our whole line. I can say the same thing about Steve being here. It enhances everybody. His toughness is legendary and is legitimate."
Childress said Hutchinson demonstrated an authentic professionalism that others emulated.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was in his second year as Minnesota's Vice President of Player Personnel when Hutchinson signed.
"He was a true pro's pro, and we had a lot of young guys at the time coming into the league," Spielman said. "Him taking that leadership and them watching him and how he approached the game, how he prepared every week, how he took care of his body and how he played on Sundays. I don't think there was anyone out there who played as hard as Steve Hutchinson did. When you have a running back like Adrian Peterson at the time, a lot of Adrian's success, even though he's a phenomenal athlete and a great running back, you've got to give credit to Steve Hutchinson."
Peterson joined Minnesota in 2007 as a first-round pick and quickly backed it up with help from Hutchinson's blocks, including Nov. 4 of that year when Peterson rushed for a single-game record of 296 yards against the Chargers. The running back sent a congratulatory video.
"You were durable, you were accountable, you were physical, you were technique sound. You were one of those guys that did it the right way every time you stepped on that field. Your presence was felt," Peterson said. "When I lined up behind you, I knew when I ran to the left side, I had no worries. That's just a testament to why you're in the position you're in now. I'm so pumped up for you. You deserve it."
View photos of Vikings legend Steve Hutchinson who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug, 7, 2021.
Linebacker Chad Greenway was selected 17th overall in 2006 — the same spot that Seattle had used to draft Hutchinson five years earlier. Greenway said in Canton that it was a point of pride to earn his way into Hutchinson's inner circle as a "very impressionable" young player.
"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, pivoting from humor to reflection. "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," Greenway added. "So he had the physical ability that he was born with and worked for but also the mental capability to be ahead of you. I think that was always the challenging part of going against him in practice."
Long snapper Cullen Loeffler was in his third season when Hutchinson signed. He said "every good team is built on the big men," and Hutchinson "was such a consistent and unbelievable player."
"He just brought this level of tenacity and consistency that everyone looked up to and just tried to match," Loeffler added. "A lot of us failed in doing that, but he was just a tremendous leader, a guy that was a no-b.s. guy and was the embodiment of what the Minnesota Vikings are. He just provided tremendous leadership, and that's why he's here (at the Hall of Fame)."
View photos of Steve Hutchinson's Pro Football Hall of Fame ring, which he will receive at halftime of Sunday's game against the Cowboys.
John Sullivan teamed with Hutchinson for four seasons, including three as Minnesota's starting center. Sullivan said Hutchinson's legacy stuck with him.
"The impact that he had didn't require me to see him on a daily basis," Sullivan said. "Once he had moved on, the impression that he left was set. He was amazing in the building and outside the building, treated everyone well and with respect. People enjoyed being around him, and he had a big heart and gave back to the community in Minnesota."
Fellow Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel's 14th and final season in the NFL was Hutchinson's first. McDaniel said Hutchinson had the requisite "nastiness to go after guys."
"We're the hammer and everybody else is the nail. That's why I loved the way Steve finished blocks," McDaniel said. "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 [in the Hall of Fame]. He's on that team now."
Celebrate the induction of Steve Hutchinson into the Pro Football Hall of Fame with an exclusive free poster (while supplies last) at the Vikings Museum and be the first to see his special Hall of Fame exhibit on view until Nov. 30!