ALLEN PARK, Mich. — With high expectations placed on him, Aidan Hutchinson arrived at the Detroit Lions practice facility the day after being drafted No. 2 overall.
His family accompanied him as he strolled around the building, soaking in the moment — the Michigan native still trying to process the emotions of beginning his career in his home state.
But after going through OTAs and rookie and mandatory minicamps this offseason, it isn’t the hype that’s standing out to coaches, teammates and members of the Lions organization, it’s his serious approach in trying to successfully transition from an All-American at Michigan to becoming a valuable NFL rookie.
“He’s been all business. I told my wife this last night. I was like, ‘you know what’s great about him is he’s quietly getting better right in front of us.’ He doesn’t say anything. He listens,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said during minicamp.
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“He’s like a sponge in there. He absorbs the information. He watches how things are done and the way coaches want them done and then he’s got a motor and he goes. He learns and gets better every day. You just see it. So, I love that about him. Every day, there’s growth right in front of us.”
Hutchinson’s locker is next to Lions defensive end Jashon Cornell, a former Ohio State star. Like many of his teammates, Cornell observed him closely during the offseason to see if the attention — and high draft pick — was warranted.
“He showed me his ability. I was like, ‘you’ve got to prove it to me with how good you are as a pass-rusher.’ During the second or third practice, I’m like, ‘you’re legit,’” Cornell said. “He can pass rush from inside, outside. He’s a real legit player. He showed that he’s ready for this league and I think Aidan’s great for this defensive line.”
He added: “He’s on his stuff 24/7. I feel like as a rookie, you come in and you get this fat playbook and it’s all thrown at you at once. And he’s shown that he’s ready, he’s prepared.”
What’s helping Hutchinson early on is being able to learn from a diverse coaching staff of former players, which includes defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and defensive line coach Todd Wash. He’s also seeing how the veterans work in his room, such as outside linebacker Charles Harris.
Defensive lineman Michael Brockers, a nine-year vet with the Rams and Lions, has been impressed by the rookie. He said he was blown away by Hutchinson’s 6-foot-7, 264-pound frame and sees him fitting into the Lions’ system seamlessly.
“He’s just gonna keep getting better and that’s the scary thing about him,” Brockers said. “He’s a guy who’s ready to learn. He’s like a sponge. He’ll pick up everything. He has his own little niches about him, but I’m very excited to have him on this team and on this D-line.”
Despite the positive early impressions, Hutchinson is still learning the pro game. Some areas of improvement that Campbell would like to see from Hutchinson are adjusting to the strength and speed of the game.
But overall, Hutchinson has impressed as he prepares for his first NFL training camp.
“I’m very excited for this season,” Hutchinson told ESPN. “Obviously, you can’t predict wins, but right now, we’ve got the right chemistry for success.”