Hutchinson shaped by his family, including a WWII veteran

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In this photo provided by Melissa Hutchinson, Aidan Hutchinson is held by his great-grandfather, Joseph Bernardi. Hutchinson is an impressive reflection of his parents, and his first names honor a great-grandfather, who was part of the World War II jungle fighting unit known as Merrill’s Marauders. Jacksonville is expected to select Hutchinson with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night, April 28. (Melissa Hutchinson via AP)

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Aidan Joseph Bernardi Hutchinson is an impressive reflection of his parents and his first names honor a great-grandfather who was part of the WWII jungle fighting unit known as ‘Merrill’s Marauders’.

Jacksonville is expected to select Hutchinson, who appears to be the total package as a player and a person, with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft next Thursday.

It’s easy to see why the Jaguars would want him after seeing what Hutchinson did last year at Michigan, where he set a single-season school record with 14 sacks.

Scouts who sought to learn more about his background found that Chris and Melissa raised a well-rounded son, uniquely shaped by a close-knit family that includes two older sisters, Mia and Aria.

Few, however, seem to know that Hutchinson can trace his lineage to the late Joseph Bernardi, an Army Ranger who was part of a secret mission in 1944 that began with 2,000 American soldiers behind enemy lines in Japanese-occupied Burma and ended with about 200 Americans. survivor.

Bernardi fought starvation, disease, and enemy troops while traveling approximately 1,000 miles to capture a Japanese-held airfield and was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

“He was one of the few who made it out alive,” Hutchison said in an interview with The Associated Press. “And that’s just a crazy story.”

Hutchinson wore his great-grandfather’s dog tag against Ohio State in his freshman year, but was afraid of losing it and did not wear them in a game again. His mother, meanwhile, had her grandfather’s dog tag with her at every Michigan game for the past three seasons.

Bernardi, born in Medeglia, Switzerland, died 15 years ago at the age of 84.

At the time, Hutchinson dreamed of playing Michigan like his father did as Captain and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1992 after tying a then-record 11 sacks.

Hutchinson’s mother, Melissa, a fine art photographer and former model, cherishes the images she made of her young son wearing Chris’ battered corn wing helmet and a child-sized jersey with the number 97, his father’s and his future number with the Wolverines.

Aidan Hutchinson, however, wasn’t allowed to play football until he was in seventh grade.

Like many children, he played soccer and flag football. Unlike many future NFL players, he taught himself to play the ukulele and spent two years as a competitive dancer.

In fifth and sixth grade, he joined his sisters to train in a studio about six days a week and competed in contemporary dance competitions.

“It was normal for us because the three of us invented dances and musicals and performed them for our parents at home,” said Mia Hutchinson, a photographer who manages her brother’s social media accounts. and create content for him.

“When Aidan started playing football in seventh grade, he was locked into his football dreams. To see him on the verge of realizing his dream is the most beautiful thing.”

Hutchinson’s dream hit a snag in the pandemic-shortened, two-win 2020 season when his right ankle broke early in Game 3 against Indiana.

Melissa Hutchinson is convinced the injury was a blessing.

“Breaking his ankle took him out of the negative experience that year and into a healing environment at home,” she said. What he did with his mind was crazy visualizing full mobility in his ankle, being in NFL games and so much more.”

To rebound from his injury and prepare for his senior seasons, a relentless strength and conditioning program propelled Hutchinson into the best shape of his life.

It paid off for him and for Michigan.

Hutchinson capped off a productive season with a spectacular three-sack performance against Ohio State to help end an eight-game losing streak in the rivalry. The Heisman Trophy runner-up led the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title since 2004 and to the college football playoffs for the first time.

“Some of my former[teammates]were like, ‘He looks like you, only 4 inches taller,'” Chris Hutchinson recalled. “We started watching my old movie and I could see what they were talking about with the way he walks, how he stands. All these little ways, you don’t really appreciate it being you, but you have explicitly passed on to your son.

“The way he mentally attacks things and mentally prepares is totally on my wife’s side. To his credit, he absorbed those things.”

The next stage of Hutchinson’s life in the league will likely be his biggest, yet he knows relying on his family is a source of comfort in chaos.

“With my parents, they’ve been my support system since day one and having them behind my back is so beneficial to me and my entire career,” Hutchinson told the AP. “I know this transition is going to be tough for the NFL. But having them, my sisters and my parents, I know they have my best interests at heart.

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Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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