Hutchinson Makes Name at Divine Child

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

September 13, 2017


DEARBORN – Often, a child of a successful athlete has difficulty living up to that standard.

To this point, that’s not the case with Aidan Hutchinson.

He plays a similar position as did his father Chris, an All-America defensive lineman at University of Michigan in 1992. But there are differences as well between father and son – although like his dad, Aidan also will head to Ann Arbor after he graduates from Dearborn Divine Child.

All Falcons fourth-year coach John Filiatraut knows is that he hit the lottery when the Hutchinsons decided Aidan would attend Divine Child – not that he didn’t see it coming, given Aidan’s mother, Melissa Hutchinson, and his two older sisters, Mia and Aria, all attended the Catholic school.

“They’re great people,” said Filiatraut, a 1986 Divine Child graduate. “It’s a treat. Coaches can complain and whine with the best of them. But we’re lucky to have Aidan.

“And Chris is not very intrusive. I was worried about that at the beginning. With his background, it would be easy to step in. We as coaches are trying to do things right here. (Chris) is committed to Aidan and for him to do this on his own, and not cast a shadow on Aidan.”

Coming off its winningest season (10-3) since 1985 and a Division 3 Semifinals berth in 2016, Divine Child is off to a 3-0 start this fall.

As for those differences between father and son, size is one. The elder Hutchinson was 6-foot-2 and weighed 221 pounds when he graduated from high school. His playing weight at U-M was 250. His son is 6-6 and weighs 255 pounds, and is considered one of the top prospects in the class of 2018. Aidan plays defensive end and tight end. His father was a defensive tackle.

Chris Hutchinson grew up in Houston and played football at Cypress Creek High before going on to University of Michigan, where he played four seasons and was named first team All-America as a senior defensive lineman in 1992. Chris Hutchinson said private school education was all new to him, but he couldn’t be more pleased with the educational – and now with his son – athletic experiences his family has enjoyed.

Not surprisingly, Aidan has accepted a scholarship offer to attend U-M. He did make unofficial visits to Notre Dame and Wisconsin, in addition to his interest in attending Penn State, but eventually U-M won out.

And so far his senior season has unfolded as planned.

“We’re 3-0. It’s great,” he said. “Michigan is undefeated. We’re undefeated. It’s all great.”

Chris Hutchinson didn’t allow Aidan to play tackle football until he was in the seventh grade. Aidan did play flag football, and other sports like soccer, but his father held him out of the physical contact until he thought Aidan was ready.

“It was a big change for me,” Aidan said of playing tackle football. “I had to learn a lot because most of the other kids had been playing two or three years. It wasn’t too bad a transition. I just had to learn quickly.”

Despite his size, and his weight as an infant (11 pounds, one ounce), Aidan wasn’t a large child growing up. He weighed 135 pounds when he was in the eighth grade, then 160 as a freshman playing on the line on Divine Child’s junior varsity team. Over the next two years, he grew seven inches and added 70 pounds.

“I’ve been (growing) all through high school,” he said. “Am I done growing? I don’t think so, but I’m hoping I am.”

The answer is likely the former. Aidan just turned 17 last month (Aug. 9).

Though his size is a plus once he gets to college, there are times when it can work against him at the high school level.

“It’s different when you’re 6-6 going against a 6-foot kid,” Chris Hutchinson said. “You have to keep your head down, and stay low.”

Chris Hutchinson, who’s a doctor in the emergency room at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, understands it’s not his place to coach his son from the sideline, even though, as the team physician, it’s his job to be on the sideline. He keeps a safe distance and allows Filiatraut and his staff do their jobs.

At home, it’s a different story. The two view film constantly to determine where improvements can be made.

“Thank God for Hudl,” Chris said. “I only focus on technique. When Aidan tells me they’re using a double team, I ask what type? There are different ways you can use a double team.

“It’s important not to be that dad who coaches. There are way too many dads who do the coaching thing. The hardest thing for me is not to say something, and have him come to me. When they do ask, then you can go forward.”

Aidan is quick for his size, and he attributes much of that quickness and his ability to react quickly to the other sport he plays, lacrosse. He started playing lacrosse the same year he began playing tackle football, and to him they go hand in hand.

“It’s a ton of fun (playing lacrosse),” he said. “My whole group of friends play. All six of us started (on varsity) as freshmen, so we should be pretty good this year. There’s no question it helps me in football. One hundred percent. It helps with my hip movement, and in lacrosse it forces you to back pedal.”

Filiatraut said Hutchinson is a special part of a special team at Divine Child. Its quarterback, Theo Day, is one of the state’s best. Day led the Falcons to the Division 3 Semifinals last season and has committed to sing with Michigan State.

“Aidan gives great effort all of the time,” Filiatraut said. “Honestly, he’s on the shy side. He’s trying to figure it all out. He’s doing his best to be a vocal leader, but it’s not in his nature.

“He’s got a ton of want-to. He wants to be good, and to get better.”

Tom Markowski is a columnist and directs website coverage for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Deaborn Divine Child’s Aidan Hutchinson grabs a water break while dad and team physician Chris Hutchinson keeps an eye on the field. (Middle) Hutchinson blocks against Benton Harbor during his team’s Week 1 win. (Below) Aidan, Chris, mom Melissa and U-M coach Jim Harbaugh take a photo after Aidan commits to sign with the Wolverines. (Photos courtesy of the Hutchinson family.)

Inspired by Dad's Memory, Lawrence's Vasquez Emerges After Family Losses

By Pam Shebest
Special for

January 16, 2024

LAWRENCE — While COVID-19 affected many students in different ways, it definitely made an impact on Austin Vasquez.

Southwest CorridorAs a freshman at Lawrence High School during the pandemic, Vasquez lost his grandmother Theresa Phillips to cancer on March 25, 2021.

Two days later, on March 27, his father Tom Vasquez, died of complications from COVID. And on April 19 that spring, his grandfather Darrell “Gene” Phillips also lost his fight against the coronavirus.

“There is no way (to cope). You just have to keep on moving,” Austin said. “It’s what (my dad) would want me to do.

“He was my biggest (influence) in sports. He talked to me about never giving up – leave everything you’ve got.”

That is just what Vasquez is doing in the midst of his three-sport senior year.

He is the top wrestler at the school, competing at 175 pounds with a goal of making the MHSAA Tournament. He was a versatile contributor on the football field this past fall, and he’s planning to join the baseball team this spring.

Vasquez works on gaining the advantage in a match against Mendon. He’s 8-3 with six pins on the mat this winter after a busy summer of camps and tournaments. Those experiences helped lessen the nerves he’d felt during matches previously, and now he’s wrestling with an outlook of “everything to gain and nothing to lose.”

And Vasquez said he feels his dad’s presence as he prepares for competition.

“Before every match, before every game, I just think about what my dad would be telling me,” he said. “Everything he’s always told me has taught me to get better. 

“In life, I still remember everything he taught me. He was definitely a great man, and I want to be like him someday.”

Wrestling also has made Vasquez more in tune with his health.

His sophomore season he went from 230 pounds to 215, and by his junior year was down to his current 175.

“I just wanted to be healthier, not just for wrestling,” he said. “I started going to the gym every night, watched my calories, and from there grew (taller).

“Now I’m at 6-(foot-)2, and I don’t know how that happened,” he laughed.

Lawrence coach Henry Payne said Vasquez always has a positive attitude and helps the other wrestlers in the program.

“When he notices a kid next to him doing a move wrong, he’ll go over and show him the right way,” Payne said. “We have a lot of young kids that this is their first year, and he’s been a good coach’s helper.”

The coach’s helper gig will continue after graduation.

"Next year we’re hoping to open up a youth program here, and I got him and an alumni that graduated last year and is helping the varsity team this year (Conner Tangeman) to take over the youth program for us,” Payne said.

 From left: Lawrence wrestling coach Henry Payne, athletic director John Guillean and football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. On the football team, Vasquez was a jack of all trades.

“He started at guard, went to tight end, went to our wingback, went to our running back. He was trying to get the quarterback spot,” football coach Derek Gribler laughed.

Vasquez said there is no other feeling like being on the field, especially during home games.

“Wrestling is my main sport, but I’d do anything to go back and play football again,” he said. “I just love it.”

Although the football team struggled through a 1-8 season, “It was still a really fun season,” Vasquez said. “Everybody was super close. Most of us never really talked before, but we instantly became like a family.”

Vasquez had the support of his mother, Heather, and four older sisters: Makaylah, Briahna, Ahlexis and Maryah. He also found his school family helped him get through the end of his freshman year.

“(My friends) were always there for me when everything was going on,” he said. “I took that last month off school because it was too hard to be around people at that time.

"Every single one of them reached out and said, ‘Hey, I know you’re going through a rough time.’ It really helped to hear that and get out of the house.”

Vasquez also was a standout on the football field. The family connection between Vasquez and Lawrence athletic director John Guillean goes back to the senior’s youth.

“I was girls basketball coach, so I coached his sisters,” Guillean said. “I remember him when he was pretty young. I knew the family pretty well. I knew his dad. He was pretty supportive and was there for everything.”

Vasquez said that freshman year experience has made him appreciate every day, and he gives the following advice: “Every time you’re wrestling, it could be your last time on the mat or last time on the field. Treat every game and every match as if it’s going to be your last. If you’re committed to the sport, take every chance you have to help your team be successful.”

Gribler has known Vasquez since he was in seventh grade and, as also the school’s varsity baseball coach, will work with Vasquez one more time with the senior planning to add baseball as his spring sport.

“When we talk about Tiger Pride, Austin’s a kid that you can put his face right on the logo. His work ethic is just unbelievable,” Gribler said. “Everything he does is with a smile. He could be having the worst day of his life, and he’d still have a smile on his face. He pushes through. It’s tough to do and amazing to see.”

The coach – who also starred at Lawrence as an athlete – noted the small community’s ability to rally around Vasquez and his family. Lawrence has about 150 students in the high school.

“It goes beyond sports,” Gribler said. “Austin knows when he needs something he can always reach out and we’ll have his back, we’ll have his family’s back. It’s not so much about winning as it is about the kids.”

Vasquez is already looking ahead to life after high school. He attends morning courses at Van Buren Tech, studying welding, and returns to the high school for afternoon classes. 

“I’d like to either work on the pipeline as a pipeline welder or be a lineman,” he said, adding, “possibly college. I would like to wrestle in college, but let’s see how this year goes.

“I’m ready to get out, but it’s going to be hard to leave this all behind.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence senior Andrew Vasquez, right, wrestles against Hartford this season. (2) Vasquez works on gaining the advantage in a match against Mendon. (3) From left: Lawrence wrestling coach Henry Payne, athletic director John Guillean and football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (4) Vasquez also was a standout on the football field. (Wrestling and football photos courtesy of the Lawrence athletic department. Headshots by Pam Shebest.)