Lions' Hutchinson surprises mom, honors WWII veteran

Associated Press

Las Vegas — Aidan Hutchinson carried out a sweet surprise for his mother on draft day, gifting a Leo Frost-designed necklace with a dog tag to honor her grandfather and World War II veteran.

He handed Melissa Hutchinson the jewelry on Thursday at the Delano Hotel before hearing his name called at the NFL draft. He was selected second overall by the hometown Detroit Lions

In a photo provided by Mpu Dinani, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson clasps a necklace with a dog tag on his mother, Melissa Hutchingon, to honor her grandfather and World War II veteran Joseph Bernardi in Las Vegas before the NFL draft on Thursday.

The former Michigan defensive tackle also had a matching necklace and dog tag created for himself. His full name is Aidan Joseph Bernardi Hutchinson with middle names that honor his late great-grandfather, who was part of the World War II jungle fighting unit known as “Merrill’s Marauders.”

Hutchinson wore Joseph Bernardi’s dog tag against Ohio State during his freshman year, but was afraid of losing it and didn’t wear the memento in a game again. Melissa Hutchinson had her grandfather’s dog tag with her at every game the Wolverines played the past three seasons.

Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson poses on the red carpet before the first round of the NFL football draft Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Las Vegas.

A record eight teams don't have first round picks

The NFL draft is kicking off in Las Vegas on Thursday night and a record eight teams won’t make their first selections until Friday night unless they trade back into the first round.

The teams without first-round picks are the Rams, Bears, Browns, Broncos, Colts, Raiders, Dolphins and 49ers.

A logo of the 2022 NFL football draft is projected at the Fountains of Bellagio on Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Las Vegas, the day before the draft.

The Seahawks traded away their first-round pick last year, but jumped back into the first round in the blockbuster Russell Wilson trade with Denver last month.

Also this offseason:

► The Browns traded three first-rounders to Houston for quarterback Deshaun Watson.

► The Raiders traded a first- and a second-rounder to Green Bay for wide receiver Davante Adams.

► And the Dolphins traded their 2022 first-rounder and four other picks to Kansas City for wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

Matthew AND Aidan

Super Bowl champion quarterback Matthew Stafford was the top overall choice in the 2009 NFL draft. Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson just might go No. 1 on Thursday night.

So it seemed natural that Stafford, who spent his first 12 pro seasons with Detroit before joining the Los Angeles Rams last year — and winning a title — would be offering some advice to Hutchinson when the two held a question-and-answer session with fans.

“Aidan seems to have a good head on his shoulders,” Stafford said at the Courtyard by Marriott “Bistro & Banter” event with fans. “I would tell him to enjoy, it's a special day for him and his family. Embrace where you are going, there will be good and bad times, like I have gone through on the journey. It's kind of the beginning of a journey of something really special.”

Hutchinson listened intently as Stafford spoke, then broke into a smile while offering that “maybe me and Matt will get together soon.” Meaning, of course, Stafford getting sacked by the rookie.

Unlike Stafford, Hutchinson had a star player as a father. His dad, Chris, made some All-America teams at Michigan in 1992 and was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame as a scholar-athlete that year.

“I never thought of measuring up to his legacy, and I had fun with it,” Hutchinson said. “So that way, no pressure. It was one nice thing we had as father and son.”

He then acknowledged that while in elementary school, he danced. His sisters and he danced competitively, though he made football his main commitment after five years of dancing.

“It definitely helped with balance and flexibility,” he said. “I can bust some moves.”

Raiders meet Air Force members 

At their place of business, which just happens to be Allegiant Stadium, Darren Waller and Clelin Ferrell welcomed 100 members of nearby Air Force bases for a Thursday pre-draft luncheon and discussion.

Waller and Ferrell seemed as much — or more — in awe of the service members as the men and women of the military were of the two Las Vegas Raiders.

Brought together by USAA, which sponsors the Salute to Service award given annually to an NFL player for his dedication to the military, both players spoke of their deep appreciation for what American soldiers do on a daily basis.

“There's the type of composure you have to have when danger is present,” said defensive end Ferrell, the youngest of nine children of two military officers. "The experience of meeting people in the services, I'm a product of it. My dad would put on his uniform and shine his shoes daily, and then train soldiers to go to war.

“When I meet people in the military, they open up (because of his background) and it puts a good presence on the experience.”

Waller, one of the NFL's finest tight ends, spoke of being at an Air Force base and hearing explosives go off during training exercises.

“And loud. I asked, 'How do you put up with that on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “You can see how that can take a toll on them in later life.”

Waller plans to be involved in wellness and personal health care after his career. Because of some similarities between the military and football such as teamwork, competitiveness, work ethic, and always having an opponent, he feels he has much to offer service members and their families — particularly when their military careers end.

“It's OK for it to be hard, to not know what you're going to do," he said. “People are there to support you.”