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Steve Hutchinson's Thoughts Detailed as 'Football Immortality' Approaches

CANTON, Ohio — Steve Hutchinson has made it to Canton in more ways than one.

Usually cool, calm and collected, Hutchison's prevailing emotion as Thursday's warm sun drifted into a comfortable, cloudless evening was anxiety because of a multitude of pending logistics.

The two-time NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year, five-time First-Team All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection isn't a stranger to accolades, but football immortality is on the cusp.

The uber-talented guard who made his mark doing yeoman's work on offensive lines for Seattle (2001-05), Minnesota (2006-11) and Tennessee (2012) in an undeniably exceptional way is being honored this weekend as the 335th enshrinee in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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.

Hutchinson arrived in the "Cradle of Pro Football" on Monday. The final days until perpetuity evaporated quickly, absorbed by extensive preparations — even with top-notch help.

"My wife (Landyn) has kind of been planning everything, so I've heard over my shoulder. You know all of the friends and teammates that are coming, so it becomes real when this week comes around on the calendar and really kind of kicks off [Thursday] night with the Hall of Fame Game and [Friday] we've got some duties to do around the Hall, some meetings and luncheons," Hutchinson said. "[Friday night] is the Gold Jacket [Ceremony], so I can't tell you the last time that going from Monday to Thursday has gone by so quickly.

"It's everything, coupled with the fact that we've waited an extra year on top with COVID, and here it is," he added. "It seems like it was just never going to happen, and all of a sudden, here it is."

View photos of Vikings legend Steve Hutchinson who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug, 7, 2021.

Hutchinson's enshrinement after his election in February 2020 was delayed for a calendar year as the world grappled with the ramifications of COVID-19, which took hold in America weeks after Hutchinson got "The Knock" on his Southeast Florida hotel from Hall of Fame President & CEO David Baker.

That resounding tap on the door by a heavy-handed Baker — certified by at least 80 percent of Hall of Fame electors (40 or more of 48) — is a resolute judge's gavel. The alternative is an anticlimactic phone call that is followed by uncanny and prolonged anticipation.

Hutchinson got "The Knock" near his hometown on the eve of Super Bowl LIV after two years of that anticlimactic call, but he's still one of the earliest guards (third year of eligibility) to be elected.

"When you don't get in on the first try or second try, you're down, but when you look at the guys that have gone in throughout history, it seems to be that the magic number is three [years] for most guards," Hutchinson said. "We obviously don't have the stats and glory and name recognition like receivers and quarterbacks, but I tell you what, it sounds funny now, but I think I appreciated it more having gone through it twice and not making it. It makes you want it that much more, so when that knock came on that third time, it was really special."

Hutchinson himself may not have the summer peach stats like yards or touchdowns, but he did enable a 1,000-yard rusher in 11 of his 12 NFL seasons. The lone exception was 2011 when Adrian Peterson was sidelined for four games but still finished with 970 yards and the collective Minnesota offense ranked fourth in yards, third in rushing scores and second in yards per rush for a 3-13 squad.

Now much more svelte and rectangular than the square-cut frame that once had Michigan coaches envisioning a defensive tackle, Hutchinson will be enshrouded with a custom-fit Gold Jacket tailored by Haggar.

He can be proud that the post-career diet and exercise bike routine, along with what he described on a recent "Undescripted" podcast with former teammate Ben Leber as old-man workouts (likely admirable for most of us) prevented alterations, despite the challenges brought by the pandemic.

Hutchinson also made sure to appreciate every thread of detail when the ornate box arrived at his residence so he could try it on. He will be presented with his Gold Jacket on Friday evening during a ceremony (television coverage by NFL Network will air on Aug. 12).

"The whole aura that surrounds the box, you open it up, and it's got the Hall of Fame insignia and everything on it, you take it out and see it for the first time with your name on it," Hutchinson explained. "You've always seen it from afar, and I have plenty of teammates that own those jackets and I've seen them. That's cool, but then when you have your own name on one, it's something special."

The Gold Jacket is one of three trademark recognitions bestowed on Hall of Famers. The Ring of Excellence is another, but the bust is the most iconic.

Hutchinson won't see the finished bronze product until Saturday evening during the enshrinement ceremony. COVID-19 protocols prevented him from posing in-person, but technology helped continue the tradition.

"I was skeptical doing it remotely, but there's a reason they call them artists and sculptors, because those guys are really good," Hutchinson said. "There was a lot of Zoom meetings where I had to turn [left], turn [right] — hours of doing that and pictures taken. I saw what was probably the last renditions of the clay molding, and I was like, 'If the bust looks anything like that, we're going to be all right.'

"I haven't seen the final product. That's obviously saved for on the stage Saturday night and when the veil is pulled off of it," he added. "Then, you'll see my real reaction, but if it's anything like the clay I saw through a Zoom a year ago, it's going to look pretty good."

The additional component of Saturday beyond the bust unveiling is the presenting of Hutchinson by former Seahawks teammate Robbie Tobeck, a soul so determined that he started 166 games after entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Atlanta in 1994, and a personal speech delivered by Hutchinson.

Because of the 20-member size of the Class of 2020, which was expanded as part of celebrating the NFL's 100th season in 2019, speeches have been limited to six-to-eight minutes for all living enshrinees. Other tributes are planned for those who will be recognized posthumously.

Offensive linemen often aren't noted for loquaciousness, but Hutchinson said he believes his speech is in good shape.

"It's a blessing and a curse, that with so many guys going in at once and it obviously being on national TV, they had to find a way to keep that within the allotted time of the networks, so they limited our speeches to six-to-eight minutes," Hutchinson said. "Anybody that knows me knows that I probably don't have a problem of keeping it short, but in this instance, I would like a little time, but I made best with what we had."

It's somewhat an unenviable task, trying to encapsulate what and thank the people who enabled an elite career. But it's also a challenge that Hutchinson will accept, bringing a full-circle conclusion for a kid who dreamed in Florida before becoming a college All-American and first-round draft pick.

View photos of Vikings legend Steve Hutchinson at NFL Honors who was recognized after recently being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The numbers will change over time, but as the 335th enshrinee, it remains incredible that there are fewer Pro Football Hall of Fame members than days in a year.

"It puts it in perspective, really. I've admired [the Hall of Fame Game] since I can remember, when I was young," Hutchinson said. "I remember being so excited, watching the Hall of Fame game and the speeches when I was a kid because that meant football was back on. That was always the first preseason game.

"When you're 6 or 8 years old, you don't care if it's the preseason or not," he added. "It's two NFL teams playing a game, and I just remember watching these speeches, household names, and I just remember saying, man, those are the guys, and the fact that, come [Friday night at the Gold Jacket ceremony] and Saturday, I'm part of that club, it's remarkable."

Hutchinson was already an All-Pro and Pro Bowler by the time he arrived in Minnesota as a highly sought free agent in 2006, but he took notice of his new surroundings that honored Vikings Legends who predated him.

"I played in [The Metrodome] and for that organization for six years, and every day, you'd go into work and see the rich tradition at Winter Park at the time and see all the pictures and posters of the guys," Hutchinson said. "There's so many Vikings in the Hall of Fame, and now to know that I'm a part of those guys is just sweet."