Michigan's Hutchinson second in Heisman voting; Alabama QB Young is winner

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson is a Heisman Trophy runner-up.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the favorite, was presented the Heisman at the ceremony Saturday night in New York. Hutchinson, an edge rusher who set the Michigan single-season sack record this season, finished second with 78 first-place votes of a possible 875. Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett was third and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud was fourth. 

Hutchinson had 78 first-place votes and 954 total points. Young had 684 first-place votes and 2,311 total points.

The Heisman Trophy has long been considered an award for an offensive skill player, usually a quarterback. Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997 became the only primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy, but he also played on offense and returned kicks.

Heisman Trophy finalist Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson speaks during a news conference before attending the Heisman Trophy award ceremony.

Hutchinson, during a news conference just hours before the presentation, said he has been wowed by the experience and hearing his name in the same breath with Woodson’s. Hutchinson, who has 14 sacks this season, has helped lead the Wolverines to a 12-1 record this season, the program’s first Big Ten championship since 2004 and first-ever College Football Playoff appearance. Michigan, the No. 2 seed, will face No. 3 Georgia on Dec. 31 in a national semifinal at the Orange Bowl.

“Michigan, we’ve been having a legendary season, something that nobody really thought we could do this season,” Hutchinson said Saturday night before the presentation. “We’re the first unranked team in the playoffs, we won the Big Ten championship really, against all the odds. To be in the same discussion with Charles Woodson, that’s someone I grew up knowing he was the only defensive player to win the Heisman and now I’m sitting here my senior year being a Heisman finalist. It means so much.”

Hutchinson is now one of four defensive players to finish second in voting and the third defensive lineman. Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o was runner up in 2012, Pittsburgh defensive end Hugh Green in 1980 and Iowa defensive tackle Alex Karras in 1957 also finished second.

The last Heisman defensive finalist was Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, who finished fourth in 2019. Michigan has had three Heisman Trophy winners, including receiver Desmond Howard in 1991 and its most recent finalist was linebacker Jabrill Peppers, fifth in 2016.

Hutchinson is the highest-finishing Michigan player since Woodson's win in 1997. His path to the Heisman can be traced back to the final month. He had two three-sack games, at Penn State on Nov. 13, and then in Michigan’s 42-27 victory over Ohio State, stopping the Buckeyes’ eight-game winning streak in the rivalry. It was his performance against the Buckeyes on a big stage during rivalry weekend that Hutchinson appeared on Heisman oddsmakers lists. According to Pro Football Focus, Hutchinson had 15 quarterback pressures vs Ohio State, most in a game since PFF began tracking college statistics in 2014.

After Michigan’s 42-3 victory over Iowa in the Big Ten title game, a “Hutch for Heisman” chant broke out in the crowd and among his Michigan teammates. In the hours before the presentation Saturday, many of Hutchinson’s teammates, as well as former Michigan players and fans took to Twitter to post the now familiar hashtag, “#Hutch4Heisman”.

This has been a whirlwind week for Hutchinson who a week ago helped lead the Wolverines to the Big Ten championship win over Iowa. He was awarded the Lombardi Award last Wednesday after being introduced by his father, Chris, a 1992 Michigan football captain and All-American, and then Thursday was named to the Walter Camp All-American team. He was honored Friday with the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football as the Big Ten’s best player as voted by the league’s head coaches.

He also was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Defensive Lineman of the Year and a Big Ten first-team selection last week.

Hutchinson praised first-year Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald during the pre-presentation news conference and credited his coach for giving him the opportunity to have this type of season. Macdonald came to Michigan after seven seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.

“The overall scheme of the defense, it was built perfectly for me and for me to produce and flourish,” Hutchinson said. “It had me standing up on the edge and really let me have a lot of freedom to really do what I want and be a playmaker. I’m super blessed coach (Jim) Harbaugh hired him this offseason, because I don’t know if I’d be here without him.”

Last week ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper elevated Hutchinson to the No. 1 spot on his draft “big board”. Hutchinson said he doesn’t see his role changing at the next level.

“They’re going to keep me on the edge,” Hutchinson said Saturday. “I think I’m a very elite edge player, and I proved that this year standing up being in kind of the Ravens defensive scheme with our new defensive coordinator. it’s been great. I flourished in that scheme. Whatever team takes me, they’re gonna get my all.”


Twitter.com: @chengelis