Steve Hutchinson had his doubts about a future in football when he left Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the University of Michigan in 1996.
"I was a defensive lineman, didn't play that year and I didn't know if I could cut it," he said this week. "The next spring, there was an opening at left guard. So I moved over."
How'd that go?
"We went 12-0 and won the national championship," Hutchinson said. "I made All-Big Ten as a redshirt freshman. I kind of figured, 'Hey, I can do this.' You know?"
Yeah, we know.
In his first year of eligibility, Hutchinson is one of 15 modern-era finalists who will be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the 48-person selection committee meets in Bloomington on Saturday.
In 2001, Seattle drafted Hutchinson 17th overall. With Hutch on board, the Seahawks went from 6-10 in 2000 to the playoffs in 2003 to the Super Bowl in 2005.
Seattle placed the transition tag on Hutchinson that offseason, but the Vikings finagled their way around that with the famous "poison pill" contract clause.
The Vikings gave Hutchinson $49 million over seven years with $16 million guaranteed. The poison pill said the full $49 million had to be guaranteed if Hutchinson wasn't the highest-paid offensive lineman on the team. Seattle tackle Walter Jones was making almost twice that. Welcome to Minnesota, Hutch.
The Vikings went from non-playoff team in 2005 to the playoffs in 2008 to the NFC Championship game in 2009.
Hutchinson played five years in Seattle, six with the Vikings and one final year with Tennessee. The 6-4, 315-pounder blocked for Shaun Alexander when he won league MVP honors while rushing for 1,880 yards and a record 28 touchdowns in 2005. Hutchinson also blocked for Adrian Peterson when he set the NFL single-game rushing record of 296 in 2007, and when he set the then-franchise mark of 1,760 yards in 2008.
"I remember watching Hutchinson before he even got to Minnesota," said former Vikings center Matt Birk. "I said to Mike Rosenthal, one of our tackles at the time, 'You ever watch this Hutchinson guy?' He said no. I said: 'You should because he's unbelievable. He literally never misses his guy.' "
Hutchinson earned seven consecutive Pro Bowl berths and was Associated Press first-team All-Pro five times, including three with the Vikings. He is on the All-Decade team for the 2000s.
"I took a lot of pride in technique," Hutchinson said. "I studied a lot of film. I wasn't the most athletic guy, but I knew I was strong. And I knew if I got my hands on you and could stay in front of you, I could move well enough to make your day miserable."
Hutchinson is one of three interior offensive linemen on the 2000s All-Decade team who will be considered Saturday. He is the only one in his first year of eligibility.
Guard Alan Faneca is in his third year. He went to nine Pro Bowls and was six-time AP All-Pro first team. Center/guard Kevin Mawae is in his fourth year. He went to eight Pro Bowls and was three-time AP All-Pro first team.
"One minute, you feel really good about your chances," Hutchinson said.
"The next minute, you feel like you don't have a chance. I'll be honest with you. My mind is fried."