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Viking earns all-star invite

Forest Grove senior Tim Hutchins will become the first Viking to play in the Les Schwab Bowl since Mitch Meeuwsen in 2000
by: Chase Allgood Forest Grove senior offensive lineman Tim Hutchins poses outside his home earlier this week after being selected to play in the 2012 Les Schwab Bowl. Hutchins became the first Viking football player to earn that distinction since Mitch Meeuwsen was selected to play in the game in 2000.

Tim Hutchins was going through a regular school day at Forest Grove High in January. The football season had long since ended for the senior offensive tackle. As far as Hutchins knew, he would never play another high school game.

Then, Hutchins had a conversation with Viking coach Dwight Jensen and found out that he would be given the chance to play one last prep game - in the Les Schwab Bowl on June 23.

Understand that Hutchins loves the game of football. And even more, he loves being on the offensive line, blocking for whoever has the ball in their hands.

'I like the feeling of blocking for my running backs and quarterbacks,' Hutchins says. 'I like the feeling of keeping someone safe and getting them somewhere.'

So the opportunity to play in the Les Schwab Bowl was a dream come true.

'I'm really excited because not everybody gets another last game to play in high school,' Hutchins says. 'Some people's careers have already ended. I have at least one more game and it's going to be with all the best.'

From the time he was little, Hutchins was always active. He could often be seen rolling around his neighborhood on a bicycle, or a skateboard or a scooter. Hutchins' body was always more suited to wearing pads and a helmet than rolling around on wheels, though.

'I was born big,' Hutchins says. 'I've always been big. And I've been getting bigger by lifting weights.'

Much bigger, actually. By his senior year in high school, Hutchins was a mountain of a man, standing 6-foot-2 and weighing a whopping 320 pounds.

Being that big was not always easy for Hutchins.

During the first three years of high school, Hutchins suffered from plantar fasciitis in both feet. The ailment is the most common source of heel pain; it happens when the plantar fascia ligament (the flat band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes and supports the arch of the foot) becomes irritated or inflamed.

Hutchins played those three seasons in constant pain. Each day before practice he had to pop two naproxen sodium pills. The relief of the pain in his feet was brief.

'I would take the pills and usually, three-fourths through the practice, halfway through the practice, it would start to hurt,' Hutchins says.

Hutchins was still able to play well for the Vikings. On game days his feet usually hurt a little less.

'Game days, sometimes they felt great and sometimes they hurt,' Hutchins says. 'But, they never hurt as bad as at practice because of the adrenalin.'

Assuming that his feet were simply destined to hurt, Hutchins tried to cowboy up through the pain.

'It hurt, but I was kind of getting used to it,' Hutchins says. 'I didn't realize that it was a serious thing until after my junior year. I thought my feet just hurt and I needed to ice them.'

Last summer, Hutchins finally saw a doctor and was diagnosed. He received a cortisone shot in both of his heels. Suddenly the pain was completely gone.

That was not good news for opposing defensive lineman.

'I felt quicker,' Hutchins says. 'I felt like I could run longer and run faster.'

The Les Schwab Bowl, erstwhile known as the Shrine Game, is a staple of Oregon culture so significant that Ken Kesey wrote about it in his classic Oregon novel 'Sometimes a Great Notion.' But, it has been a difficult honor for Viking football players to achieve.

Hutchins is the first player from Forest Grove to be named to the game since 2000 when Mitch Meeuwsen - who later became a star safety at Oregon State - played in the game.

Forest Grove athletic director Doug Thompson says that the rarity of Vikings being selected to play in the game makes it an even greater honor for Hutchins.

'I wouldn't expect that looking at our teams and where we've finished the last 20 years that we'd have a whole bunch of Les Schwab guys,' Thompson says. 'Mitch and Tim were both pretty spectacular football players for us.

'Of course, as an AD, I'd like to have five a year, because that's a pretty big honor. So sure I wish we had more, but I'm also pretty proud of those two kids that made it.'

When he found out that he would be playing in the Les Schwab Bowl, the first person Hutchins told was his mother, Lorrie. But Hutchins also made sure to tell other people, many of whom he says are planning to attend the game.

'All my friends keep saying how they want to come watch me,' Hutchins says. 'It's going to be a great feeling to perform in front of them.'

Lorrie Hutchins is hoping that there will be college scouts at the game as well.

'I'm hoping that maybe this will get him some more exposure for the possibility to play college ball next year,' she says.

Hutchins is currently looking at walking on at Southern Oregon, Western Oregon or possibly Portland State. Jensen believes that Hutchins is the kind of player who could impress college coaches once he gets to a school.

'He's got a good chance of going in and if he has a good season his walk-on year, earning a scholarship,' Jensen says.

Before he turns his attention to collegiate football, Hutchins will have the chance to suit up for one more prep game.

Thompson says that Hutchins playing in the Les Schwab Bowl will inspire future Vikings.

'It's great for Forest Grove football and it's a real testament to the younger kids that can look up to Tim and see how much work he put in to be the player he was,' Thompson says. 'Timmy was the last one in the weight room, always working his tail off and he's just one of those great kids.

'As a seventh and eighth grader, we knew Timmy was going to be pretty special on the offensive line for us and he made that come to fruition.'

When Hutchins walks onto the gridiron in June, he will be the first player to wear a Forest Grove football helmet in the Les Schwab Bowl in over a decade.

But, Hutchins was a player who cared more about protecting others than his own personal accomplishments. He was a player who went through constant pain just to step onto the field for three years. He was a player who finally got to play his senior season without pain and took advantage of it.

And for that, Jensen says playing in the Les Schwab Bowl is an honor that belongs entirely to Hutchins.

'This is more of a recognition to Tim Hutchins and his accomplishments,' Jensen says. 'As far as the entire football program, he gets to represent us and it's good publicity for our program. But this is ... one of those individual things that an athlete has an opportunity to earn in a team sport like football.

'We always talk about doing what's best for the team and these other accolades will come along. It's nice individual recognition and it's only because he's a team player. This is one of those things that Tim earned.'