Perhaps no one had a better seat than former Michigan All-America defensive lineman Chris Hutchinson in the aftermath of defensive-line coach Greg Mattison’s departure after last season from the Wolverines to arch-rival Ohio State.
Mattison is now the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator and left Michigan along with linebacker coach Al Washington, who spent one season coaching the Wolverines, but decided to go home to Columbus, where he grew up.
It was a bitter pill for many current Michigan players and coaches and also former players and fans. Mattison is making $1.1 million at Ohio State, after earning a base of $525,000 at Michigan as a position coach.
Chris Hutchinson joined The Detroit News’ “View from the Press Box” podcast this week and touched on a number of topics, including his playing days at Michigan from 1988-1992, going unbeaten against Ohio State while winning five Big Ten championships, but mostly he focused on his son, Aidan, a starting sophomore defensive end.
Aidan Hutchinson has six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks this season and leads the linemen with 36 tackles, and also has two forced fumbles. Chris Hutchinson shared his insights into their father-and-son relationship especially how it relates to football.
Michigan has lost seven straight to Ohio State and 14 of the last 15, and Hutchinson was asked his son’s feeling on a rivalry that the Buckeyes have gotten the better part of during his lifetime. Hutchinson then added the Mattison layer and said his departure was a dagger for his son.
“(The Michigan-Ohio State game) is such a different experience for him, one, because he hasn’t been around a lot of Ohio State wins and you throw in the Greg Mattison thing on top of it, it just makes it so much more personal for him,” Chris Hutchinson said on the podcast. "When Mattison left to go to your No. 1 rival, Aidan’s known him since he was 10 years old. That ripped a little piece of him out.”
Aidan Hutchinson is fiery and emotional. As Chris Hutchinson shares on the podcast, he was not much of a talker on the field, but his son is vocal in the moment. He shared an amusing anecdote on that topic about Aidan in the Army game this season.
But with that in mind, Chris Hutchinson predicts it may be challenging initially for the defensive players as they face Mattison and Ohio State this season on Nov. 30 in The Game at Michigan Stadium.
“Honestly, I’m a little bit concerned he’s going to be too emotional for the game,” Hutchinson said. “I could honestly see him making a play and being on the sideline and getting a penalty for taunting Mattison. That’s how feverish he is about what happened. Mix that in with Ohio State. Clearly (defensive coordinator) Don’s (Brown) going to have to talk to these kids about it, because it’s going to be — this year’s going to be a very unique game for these kids. We’re not even 12 months removed (from his departure) and he’s going to be on the other sideline. It’s going to be very interesting to see how these kids handle this.”
After the Michigan spring game earlier this year, Aidan Hutchinson was asked to explain a Tweet he had posted. He added two snake emojis to a clip of Mattison, wearing Ohio State apparel and referring to Michigan as “that school up north” a typical OSU reference to its rivals.
“You get a big feeling of betrayal,” Aidan Hutchinson said at the time. “He told me he’s either retiring or he’s renewing his contract, so I’m like, ‘Oh, OK.’ I found out he’s leaving, I’m like, ‘Oh, OK, whatever.’ He said Ohio State and that kinda makes your stomach turn a little bit. He taught me a lot, I’m not taking that away from him, but it gives you a different mindset on things. I wouldn’t mind if he went to any other school. But this (crap) kind of hurts.”
Chris Hutchinson saw video of his son’s response to the question and understood how deeply he was hurt by Mattison’s departure.
“I said to him, ‘I don’t know that would have been my style with that, but I can’t tell you what you’ve been through and if that’s the way you feel, you didn’t say anything derogatory,’” Hutchinson said. “I wouldn’t want to use some expletives about it, but I think he got his point across. And that’s kinda what you have to do in this era, you have to navigate the social media waters carefully, but you can get your point across and use emotion at the same time without saying inappropriate things.”
The players were hurt Mattison left but profoundly wounded he went to Ohio State.
“He said that. Go to the Pac-12, great. Go make twice as much money. Fine,” Chris Hutchinson said. “That hurts a little bit. But when you go to that school and we’re all still here and you recruited all of us, him and Carlo (Kemp), all those guys on defense, those guys are hurt.
“It’s gonna be a lot of energy out there at noon that last game of the year.”
Chris Hutchinson played for Mattison his final season at Michigan. Mattison was defensive coordinator and left after the 1996 season for Notre Dame. He returned to Michigan as defensive coordinator in 2011 when Brady Hoke became head coach. Jim Harbaugh retained Mattison when he took over in 2014, but moved him to defensive line assistant. Each time Mattison left Michigan, he called Chris Hutchinson.
“I’ve had two conversations with Greg about this,” he said. “One, he called me when I was in medical school and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to Notre Dame,’ and then this time when he left he called me personally, and we had this same discussion. The first time, it hurt less. This time, it’s like, you know, you did it to me once, you’re doing it to me twice, I’m done. I’m finished.
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“Maybe when he’s retired, etcetera, it’s just, I realize it’s twice as much money, I realize he felt that he had a few more years he could be a coordinator over a position coach. It was monetary when he went to Notre Dame, but twice is enough for me. I’m trying to remove the emotions because I’m the old guy in the room, but I would never have done that. It’s not my style.”
Because Hutchinson had such a close relationship with Mattison, that led to a young Aidan getting to know the coach. Now, several months removed from his departure to OSU, Hutchinson believes his son has grown from the experience.
“Obviously, he knew that this was going to hurt,” Hutchinson said. “But in another sense, I was glad that Aidan was going to get a different experience because his relationship with Mattison was very interesting because he had known him since he was 10 years old. He had a very unique relationship, and Aidan sometimes struggled with that because there was recruiting Matty and friend Matty and coach Matty, and these were all very different people for him and sometimes they were difficult for Aidan to put this person all together as one person because they treated him very differently.
“And sometimes, I’m not saying anything about Matty about that, sometimes you have to do that with kids, but I think it was hard for Aidan to digest and I almost thought, you know what, this might actually be a good thing, a fresh start, somebody that doesn’t have all this history and is going to treat Aidan as another one of his players.”
Now, the defensive linemen are coached by Shaun Nua, whose vibrant energy the players seem to very much enjoy.
“It’s actual energy, running around and screaming and getting these guys fired up and chest bumping them and high-fiving them violently when they come off the field,” Hutchinson said. “It’s a very different feel for these guys to have that level of energy from your own personal coach. Aidan loves Nua.
:He’s so happy with the way this thing turned out.”