If Dearborn native Aidan Hutchinson had been a Lions fan growing up, his answer might have been different.
Asked by Saints Pro Bowl DE Cam Jordan at the 2022 NFLPA Rookie Premiere which quarterback he wants to sack in the NFL, Hutchinson might have said Aaron Rodgers. Or fellow division rival -- and former Buckeye -- Justin Fields. Or fellow division rival -- and former Spartan -- Kirk Cousins.
But Hutchinson grew up rooting for the Patriots because of former Wolverine Tom Brady. So when Jordan told him to fill in the blank, "It would be so dope if I smacked _____," Hutchinson smiled and said, "I mean, I grew up dressing like Tom Brady for Halloween and stuff."
"So if I were able to smack Tom Brady and get a sack on him and hopefully talk some smack when we get up," Hutchinson said, before Jordan interjected, "He may not get back up. He's 45 or something like that."
Indeed, Brady will be 45 at the start of this season. Hutchinson, the second overall pick out of Michigan and the favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year, will be 22. For now, the Lions new DE will have to set his sights on Rodgers, Fields and Cousins. Brady and the Buccaneers aren't on the Lions' schedule this year -- unless they meet in the playoffs.
The playoffs are very much Hutchinson's goal. And it's not a totally unrealistic one in 2022 with the Lions poised to take a step forward and the postseason including seven teams from each conference. Hutchinson helped Michigan win the Big Ten and reach the College Football Playoff last season a year after the Wolverines finished 2-4. He wants to have a 'similar effect' in Detroit.
"At Michigan, by the end of my career we won a Big Ten championship, made it to the playoffs, we were doing big things for the university that we really hadn’t done in 20 years. So I just hope when I go to the Lions we can start hitting those milestones and start turning the program around," Hutchinson said. "It really takes everyone. I hope I can just be a small piece of it who is able to drive it and help move the franchise forward, so we start winning some playoff games, go to the Super Bowl, win that. That’s ultimately my goal.
"And that’s why I’m so happy that I’m in Michigan again, because I was at Michigan and we came back to our glory. So I’m hoping to have a similar effect in Detroit and with the Lions and being that hometown kid."
Other highlights from Hutchinson's conversation with Jordan:
On a piece of advice Jordan wished he had as a rookie: "Something you’re going to learn quick your rookie year: you don’t have to do everything in the world. You don’t have to take it all on your shoulders. They’re bringing you in to be the player that you’ve put on film and the player they think you can be molded into. You don’t have to be like, ‘Hey, from day one, I’m not only going to be a starter, I’m going to be a sack specialist.’ Whatever it is, learn your craft and just grow from there."
On the challenge of entering the NFL: "Living about 20 minutes down the road, so living in my parents’ house right now. But I’m just so excited, man. I’ve been watching a whole lot of NFL film, even in college because it’s always been the goal for me. Just being able to go against the best, it puts all that I got to the test and I think that’s what makes me so excited about this opportunity. Going against the best of the best, the elite tackles, it’s going to be a fun challenge and something that I’m looking forward to."