PHOENIX – Aidan Hutchinson had one of the most productive rookie seasons by any first-year pass rusher in NFL history. He logged 9.5 sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, becoming the only rookie in NFL history to produce a season with that stat line.
He is a finalist for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and was everything Detroit hoped he'd be after they selected him No. 2 overall in last year's NFL Draft.
But according to Hutchinson, his NFL debut in 2022 was just an appetizer for what's to come.
"That was just a little appetizer," Hutchinson told Detroitlions.com on radio row at the Super Bowl Thursday. "That's how I view it. A little appetizer. That was me being a rookie and not quite knowing – especially early in the year – not quite knowing the NFL and how things go and stuff like that. You give me this whole offseason of training, I'm going to take off to a new level.
"Being able to produce in all aspects of the game, which I did this year, it was frickin awesome. Man, it was so cool. Catching interceptions. I've got all the balls at the house right now. I love it all, dude."
Detroit Lions fans will love reading that.
Coaches and teammates raved about Hutchinson's work ethic as a rookie. Veteran defensive lineman Michael Brockers was asked about Hutchinson in Phoenix this week, and he said when he got to the practice facility early in the morning, Hutchinson would already be in the defensive line room watching film.
There was no rookie wall for Hutchinson, mostly because of his preparation and work ethic.
"You have to find that joy and love of what you're doing," Hutchinson said. "I love the game of football so much, playing at a high level and producing. It gives me so much joy. Having to look forward to things like that made that rookie wall not even a thing."
Hutchinson can't wait to get back at it this spring when the team starts the offseason training program. He thinks Detroit's young defensive line is going to take a big step forward next season.
Hutchinson and linebacker James Houston are the first set of rookie teammates in NFL history to each have at least 8.0 sacks in the same season. They are also the first set of rookie teammates to each have a game with 3.0 sacks in the same season.
Lions rookies combined for 20.5 sacks this season, establishing a new NFL record for the most combined sacks from a team's rookie corps. Detroit also bested their previous franchise rookie record of 12.0 sacks in 1987.
"We've got so many young guys in the room it's ridiculous," Hutchinson said. "I just think all around the board we are young. Give everyone one more year and it's just like we're going to get that much better and that much better and that much better. I feel amazing going into Year 2. I feel like I'm about to light it up, dude."