Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton began a somewhat inauspicious press conference in a way many would have expected.
With his parents to his right and coach to his left, the player began to address the crowd, which included Arizona State employees, members of the media and Sun Devil teammates. Most people probably thought, given the season Sutton just had and the setting in which he was making this announcement, he was going to go pro.
“It’s been a great season, you know, we did it 8-5, good accomplishment, bowl champions,” he said. “It’s been a hard decision, it’s been a long decision.”
Sutton was at the Carson Center in Tempe Tuesday to announce where he would be playing football next season, with the options being right where he was or somewhere in the NFL.
He paused briefly before revealing his decision.
“My decision is that I’m going to stay and play another year…” he said, with the rest of his statement being drowned out by thunderous applause.
At stake was the future of a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American, a player whose very presence made the Sun Devils a vastly different team.
Clearly a decision to stick around for one more year was worthy cause for celebration.
Sutton finished the 2012 campaign with 13 sacks and 63 tackles — all while missing nearly two full games — but even with seemingly little left to prove at the collegiate level, decided to return.
“There was a lot of things, a lot of pros and cons,” he said of how he weighed the decision. “It wasn’t just one thing, but some of the main things is coming back and winning a championship, doing it for my teammates and getting an education, my degree.”
It’s a novel concept in a time where many players — especially those of Sutton’s caliber — jump at the very first chance they get to turn professional. That often makes sense, as every player is just one play away from seeing a season — and possibly a career — go down the drain due to an injury.
Yet Sutton said that’s not something he can worry about, and it appears the decision he made Tuesday (he said that’s when he made it) is one that he’s very comfortable with.
And relieved to have finally made.
“It’s pretty stressful,” he admitted. “Got my teammates asking me what I’m going to do. Walking down the street people are asking me what I’m going to do, twitter, everything.
“So it’s finally — it’s just a lot of stress, like, gone, to get this finally over with.”
From here the task at hand, as Sutton said, is trying to win football games. The Sun Devils had a good season in 2012, but Sutton is returning with eyes on an even bigger year. As scary as that is to anyone on ASU’s upcoming schedule, that’s music to head coach Todd Graham’s ears.
Graham, who said he only wanted what was best for Sutton, admitted to having some bias going into this decision. But, he said, the player’s choice says a lot about who he is.
“He’s the best defensive lineman I’ve ever coached, one of the best defensive players that I’ve ever coached,” he said. “I think it just speaks volumes about his commitment to our team.”
Graham said he believes Sutton “can get a whole bunch better”, which if so will lead to Sutton’s draft stock rising even higher. While a dominant college player as a junior, he was still projected to be a second or third round selection.
That was not on the player’s mind, at least not Tuesday. When asked what was next for him, Sutton responded “I’ve got class at six o’clock,” though he said he couldn’t remember which one.
That’s OK, as it’s understandable if the 21-year-old has so much on his mind that he can’t remember which class he’s got next.
Because come next season, he’ll be ready to take the Pac-12 to school once again.