Steve Hutchinson, whose departure from the Seahawks was as contentious as his play during his career with the team was exceptional, received the sport’s highest honor Saturday, finally getting elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
It was the third year Hutchinson had been up for election. He got the knock on his door Saturday in Miami, site of this year’s Super Bowl, not far from his native Fort Lauderdale.
Hutchinson, who helped power the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl after the 2005 season, is the fifth player drafted by the Seahawks to make the Hall of Fame.
Edgerrin James, who also spent a season with the Seahawks, Steve Atwater, Isaac Bruce and Troy Polamalu were also elected Saturday, filling out what will be a 20-man overall class to celebrate the league’s 100th season. The induction ceremony will take place Aug. 6-9 in Canton, Ohio.
James made his name primarily with Indianapolis and Arizona but spent the final year of his career with Seattle in 2009, gaining 125 yards on 46 carries in seven games. The addition of Hutchinson and James makes 12 players who were Seahawks at some point in their career in the Hall.
Hutchinson spent the first five seasons of his career with Seattle after being selected by the Seahawks in the first round in 2001, taken 17th overall out of Michigan.
He joined with Jones to form one of the most dominating left sides of an offensive line in league history, paving the way for running back Shaun Alexander to gain a franchise-record 1,880 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns in winning NFL MVP honors in 2005 when Seattle advanced to its first Super Bowl.
But the ensuing 21-10 Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh proved to be the final game of Hutchinson’s Seahawks career. Rather than immediately sign him to a long-term contract, Seattle slapped Hutchinson with the transition tag, which allowed him to negotiate with other teams and gave Seattle the ability to match.
His agent, Tom Condon, negotiated a seven-year, $49 million deal with the Vikings that included the infamous “poison pill,” a clause that said his entire contract had to be guaranteed if he were not the highest-paid lineman on his team. Everyone knew in the moment that the deal meant the end of his Seattle career since the Seahawks were not going to give him a deal paying him more than Jones.
In a 2018 interview with The Times, Hutchinson said he had always hoped to remain a Seahawk.
“For the record, I did not want to leave Seattle,” he said, adding then, “If I had a choice, I would put the Seahawks logo on it (his Hall of Fame bust).”
Hall of Fame busts actually include just the names of every team for which a player saw action, so Seattle will be listed with the Vikings, for whom Hutchinson played six seasons, and Tennessee, where he played a final year in 2012.
And Hutchinson has since mended fences with the organization, having raised the 12 flag before a playoff game against Detroit in 2017 and currently working for the team as a scout (the Seahawks also helped promote Hutchinson’s HOF candidacy). But in its official announcement of the class on Saturday, the Hall of Fame featured a picture of Hutchinson in Minnesota colors.
Hutchinson, though, said after he found out he was in the Hall that he cherished time with both the Seahawks and Vikings.
“There were a lot of sleepless nights,” Hutchinson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune of the poison-pill saga. “I’ve never been the type of person who like the spotlight on me. … I’m fortunate that I really got to split my career between two wonderful, first-class organizations.”
Hutchinson made three Pro Bowls and was named to the AP All-Pro team twice while with Seattle. He ended up with five AP All-Pro first team honors.
Other players drafted by Seattle now in the Hall are Jones, Cortez Kennedy, Kenny Easley and Kevin Mawae.
Jones, Kennedy, Easley and Steve Largent are the only players in the Hall who spent their entire careers with Seattle (Largent was drafted by the Oilers but never played for Houston).
Other players in the Hall who played for Seattle are running back Franco Harris, receiver Jerry Rice, defensive end Carl Eller, quarterback Warren Moon and defensive tackle John Randle.
Hutchinson told the Star-Tribune that finally getting in was a sizeable relief off his shoulders.
“Just lying in bed (Saturday night) and knowing there’s no pressure anymore, no anxiety,” Hutchinson said. “Just wake up tomorrow and get fitted for my (bronze bust). They’re going to measure everything on my big head for this bust. And really knowing I never have to go through what I just went through ever again.”