Brandon Hutson doesn’t remember when he started going to Notre Dame football games. Growing up in Battle Creek, Mich., with a father who played Irish baseball and two uncles who graduated from the University, fall Saturdays in South Bend were staples of Huston’s youth.
But if the when fails Hutson, the where of Notre Dame football does not.
Now a 6-foot-3, 220-pound athlete who will join the program as a preferred walk-on next season, Huston always wanted to get as close to the tunnel as possible of game days. That meant buying tickets in Section One, leaning over the railing, watching players spill out onto the field.
Hutson’s family may still sit there next season. They’ll see the four-sport athlete from Harper Creek High School take the field.
“Now I get to be one of those players,” Hutson said. “Even if I hadn’t grown up a fan, with the academics here and the environment, it’s perfect. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”
Huston could have.
He had a scholarship offer from Air Force and went far enough down the road with the Falcons that he visited Colorado Springs and hosted head coach Troy Calhoun late in the process. But ever since Notre Dame started showing interest before Hutson’s senior year, the Irish legacy had an idea of where he wanted to go.
Hutson said he called in his decision to director of player personnel Dave Peloquin last November and signed paperwork last week. In between he also got a call from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, the only coach Hutson has spoken to on staff.
“He wanted to make sure I was still in,” Hutson said. “It was pretty cool. You see him on TV, then you pick up your phone and hey, it’s Brian Kelly.”
Hutson will enroll at Notre Dame next fall as a linebacker with no delusions of making an immediate impact. But he’s also watched Joe Schmidt walk a similar path from scout team fodder to scholarship help to starting middle linebacker to team MVP.
“I’m definitely hoping that’s what happens and I want to be successful here, but I know it’s going to be an uphill battle,” Hutson said. “I grew up with the dream of going here and playing here.”
Hutson played linebacker, tight end and some running back at Harper Creek, although head coach Ed Greenman believes the senior could grow into a defensive end after a few years in the weight room.
“He’s got a frame that could get real big, so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him putting his hand on the ground someday,” Greenman said. “He’s a hard-nosed kid. His favorite side of the ball is defense, but he catches the ball about as good as anyone we’ve got here. He’s got great instinctive skills. I don’t know how many interceptions he had, but he’s got a very good feel for what offenses are trying to do and he finds ways to get underneath it.”
Hutson led Harper Creek with 94 tackles last season and was a three-year starter. He also played for the basketball, baseball and track teams during his prep career.
“He’s just one of those kids who leads by example,” Greenman said. “He’s gained an awful lot of respect from the kids here, is a very hard worker in the weight room and in the class room.”