Despite setbacks, senior player reflects on success

first_imgNick Entin | Daily TrojanDifficult choices · Michael Hutchings considered quitting football after his father’s death during his freshman year, but decided against it.Senior Michael Hutchings has two favorite memories from four years as a Trojan. One at the beginning, one at the end.His first came in November of his freshman year, when a team in transition with a new head coach and something to prove knocked off No. 5 Stanford in front of a sold-out home crowd. The team rallied, former quarterback Cody Kessler threw a key touchdown and a defense-heavy game ended in a 20-17 victory. The stadium shook with cheers as the final whistle blew. Fans streamed over the barricades and onto the field, with cell phones held high to record the madness. Hutchings didn’t start, didn’t record a single tackle all game. But standing on the grass of the Coliseum in the middle of the crowd, he felt like he’d finally made it.A month and 29 days later, he felt as if his world was flipping on its head. He’d lost his father, his idol, the man he was named for, to a battle with pancreatic cancer that didn’t last half of a year. His father, who watched film and scouted opponents, who called him before each game to give him a rundown of suggestions and who taught him to love football.His dad only saw him play a handful of USC games. He was hospitalized soon after moving Hutchings into his dorm. By New Year’s, he was too weak to open presents for his birthday. He died on a January afternoon, two weeks after turning 49.It was a loss that Hutchings couldn’t shake. For him, football and family were intertwined, inseparable. Without his dad, Hutchings wasn’t sure what was left to love about the sport.“It was hard,” Hutchings said. “It was easy to feel like there wasn’t much to keep playing for.”He started skipping team meetings and coming to practices late. Clay Helton, an interim coach at the time, was told to keep an eye on him. For awhile, Hutchings considered just quitting football entirely.Hutchings isn’t sure why he stayed. But he did, grinding through practices, staying steady through every head coach replacement and front page scandal. It wasn’t easy, he said, but it was worth it. The whole team took each season one practice at a time. They trusted in the future, that a season would come when it all would fall into place.In 2016, Hutchings decided that this season, his last season, was the year. As a sophomore, he fell to second string and spent two years clawing his way back into the team’s rotation. But as a senior, he felt ready to leave an impression that wouldn’t fade easily.“I had one year left and I didn’t have anything to lose,” Hutchings said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get any days back. There was no next year. I gave everything I had each day.”The difference was noticeable to Hutchings almost immediately. He attacked every practice at spring camp and approached the locker room just as fervently, making sure to connect with each of his teammates.In August, Hutchings was named a captain alongside Max Browne, Zach Banner and Adoree’ Jackson. A bright red “C” emblazoned his jersey as he started every single game, tying for the second most total tackles for the team. And through a shaky start and a roller coaster finish to his final season, Hutchings focused on being there for his teammates every game, every practice and every day.It was a year to be proud of, a year with nothing to lose and everything to gain. And Hutchings made the most of it. Until this year, his father’s death was a weight, hanging heavily. But now, it’s a constant motivation.“It made me grow off the field a tremendous amount,” Hutchings said. “It made me look at sports, look at football in a different way. I look at it as more of a privilege. It helped me grow to take a step back and appreciate everything that was in front of me.”This year was a turning point for Hutchings. It brought him to his second greatest memory — Saturday’s game against Notre Dame — and the most recent, its vibrance still fading after a few days. He’s not sure what it was about the game, whether it was the pelting rain or the roaring student section or Jackson’s leap over a defender to sprint into the end zone. He recorded five total tackles, but Hutchings’ stats weren’t his focus at the end of the day.It was something about the energy, the way his teammates grinned and laughed and hugged each other after every play. The sideline brimmed with excitement, and Hutchings fed off of it. It took until later, after the game ended and the locker room cleared out, that the weight of his final game in his home field sunk in.“After, when everything was all done, it settled in that it was my last game,” Hutchings said. “Afterwards it hit me hard. This team, it means a lot to all of us. I’ve grown so much as a part of it and when you look back, it just means a lot more than you can say.”Part of that has to do with Helton, a man Hutchings has known since he was 14, since he first considered putting on a USC jersey. He praises the head coach for his fierce loyalty and his determination to support and connect with each of his players.But most of what Hutchings will take away from USC has nothing to do with post-game statistics or highlight reels. It’s the teammates, he says, the friends who have become close to brothers. He respects his teammates, looks up to them and learns from them.“You’re just around all these guys who set great work ethics and great examples,” Hutchings said. “The game provides so much more than just playing. You learn to appreciate people a lot more and know that your problems aren’t the biggest. The fun, the team that I had during this time — that’s what I’ll take away.”Hutchings likes to think that his greatest memory at USC isn’t made just yet. There’s one game left — the unannounced bowl game, a final chance for every senior to make their mark on the team.After that, he’ll graduate in the spring, along with 13 other seniors on the team. He’s not sure what will happen then, what will come next.But Hutchings know one thing for sure. In a few weeks, he’ll put on a jersey labeled “19” on the back and “C” on the chest. He’ll think about his dad, about the advice he would give if he could, and he’ll look for his mom in the stands. He’ll dance with his teammates on the field, cheer from the sidelines and throw hard hits when he can.He’ll play as a Trojan, one last time. And for now, that’s the only thing Hutchings wants to worry about.last_img read more

Premier League: Blackpool 1 – 3 West Ham

first_imgVictor Obinna followed up his weekend hat-trick with two goals as West Ham beat Blackpool to move off the foot of the Premier League table.Keeper Richard Kingson’s blunder gifted him the opening goal, before debutant Robbie Keane volleyed in a second.Blackpool’s Charlie Adam scored from a corner only for Obinna’s rasping shot to make it 3-1 before half-time.Adam thumped a free-kick against the bar as the Seasiders laid siege in the second half but West Ham held on.From the outset, neither side held anything back as they both went all out in attack, and the game developed a lively tempo.Although Ian Holloway’s team had the better of the early possession, it was the visitors who did more with the ball when they had it, and the first meaningful chance fell to Obinna. Frederic Piquionne fired in a cross from the left which was allowed to go all the way across the box to Obinna and his bobbling shot drew a good full-stretch from Kingson.Obinna was a constant threat, and with West Ham having clearly identified the right-hand side of Blackpool’s defence as a weakness, he was regularly in the thick of the action.When the first goal of the game came, it was no surprise that the Nigerian was involved.He twisted and turned and pulled marker Craig Cathcart out of position, and opened up the angle to shoot from the left-hand corner of the box, with Kingson inexplicably palming the ball into his own net.But with the Hammers having shipped 10 goals in their last three league games, Blackpool knew the visitors were open to a sucker punch, and they very nearly landed one through Andy Reid. The Blackpool debutant spotted keeper Robert Green off his line and tried to curl a shot into the far top corner from wide on the right, but the England keeper back-pedalled and managed to finger-tip the ball over the bar.Seeing their lead threatened roused West Ham to action and inevitably Obinna was involved.He drew a fine double save from Kingson but there was nothing the Ghanaian could do about Keane’s follow-up volley into the bottom corner from close range.But just as Avram Grant’s side were starting to think of the rare luxury of a two goal half-time cushion, Blackpool struck back.Adam, the focus of so much pre-match attention, fired in a low corner from the right which somehow eluded everyone and skidded into the far corner to put the hosts on the scoreboard. Amazingly, there was still time for another goal before the break, and once again, Obinna was at the heart of things.Scott Parker charged forward from the centre circle and laid the ball off to Obinna, who unleashed an unstoppable left-foot shot from 30 yards into the top corner.Adam continued to show his huge value in the transfer market by being at the centre of everything Blackpool did, and he came within inches of narrowing West Ham’s lead when he smashed a second-half free-kick against the crossbar.That free-kick was earned after James Tomkins fouled substitute James Beattie and the introduction of the former Everton striker caused West Ham’s defence all kinds of problems.Winston Reid in particular struggled to deal with him, and was lucky to avoid conceding a penalty when he hauled Beattie down in the box, although the forward did not complain much about the decision. Beattie came on at the same time as former Hammer Marlon Harewood, showing the home side’s attacking intent, and they laid siege to Green’s goal for the rest of the game.But for all Blackpool’s pressure, Green’s stoppage-time one-handed save from Harewood was one of the few times he was truly threatened, and the visitors held on for only their second away win of the season.Source: BBClast_img read more