FEATURE: Walk-on football player earns scholarship

What was supposed to be light-hearted banter became a shining moment in just seconds. It was senior walk-on running back Thomas Hutchings’ turn to be made fun of in a “senior roast,” an event the SFA football coaching staff created to commemorate the end of fall camp. 

“Thomas, you’re so slow you’ve been chasing a scholarship your whole career,” said the Lumberjacks’ head coach Colby Carthel. “He finally got it tonight! Congratulations!”

Chaos ensued as the team swarmed the Cedar Park native to congratulate him for his reward.

Hutchings is an accounting major and plans to receive his master’s degree and CPA license after the conclusion of his football career. 

Hutchings, nicknamed “Tahoe,” joined SFA in 2018 after attending Boise State University and Blinn College in Brenham. Through the first three games of the season, he has tallied 15 carries for 85 yards. He has also recorded two receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown. 

“I got recruited here by a coach who said I could earn a scholarship,” Hutchings said. “A couple of years before I came here, they had one of the best offenses in the country. I thought it was a great opportunity to come here and just show what I can do.”

Last season, Hutchings played in nine games for the Jacks and made three starts at running back. He was the team’s third-leading rusher, finishing with 205 yards on 26 carries. He led the Lumberjacks in both yards per rush (7.8) and rushing touchdowns (2). Hutchings also made four receptions for 27 yards. 

It was time for the senior to be rewarded after months of hard work during spring practice, the summertime and fall camp.

“He just kept rising up the depth chart,” Carthel said. “You look up and he’s fourth string, third string, second string and just getting some good quality reps. He does everything you want out of a Lumberjack.”

At the Division I FCS level, only 63 scholarships are given to players. As a result, other team members are either on partial aid or not receiving any financial aid at all. 

“I know he’s excited because he got his school paid for, but the team was excited. You can always tell you made a good decision when the team goes nuts and you know you gave one [scholarship] to the right kid,” he said. 

Before his collegiate career, he was a two-way player at Cedar Park High School. In his varsity career, Hutchings led the Timberwolves to two state championship appearances. They won the Class 4A Division II championship in 2012 and finished as runner-up in the Class 5A Division II championship in 2014. In the 2014 contest, Hutchings was named offensive MVP after tallying 155 rushing yards on 18 carries and scoring a touchdown. On defense, he added four solo tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. 

In high school, Hutchings received offers from FCS schools such as Southland Conference foe University of the Incarnate Word and the University of Northern Colorado. He also received multiple offers from Division 2 schools. 

Hutchings has received praise from his teammates and his head coach for his unselfishness and his role in helping the Lumberjacks.

“He’s a great teammate,” said senior wide receiver Lar’Darion Cobb. “He puts the team before himself. He’s unselfish; he makes plays, and he does what he needs to do to help the team win.” 

“I was the same way,” Cobb said. “I walked on here two years ago. Seeing a fellow brother do that just warms my heart to the fullest.”

From his previous stops at Blinn and Boise State, Hutchings embraced the unique culture that each place had to offer. But, one thing that remained the same for him was the way football was played.

“I learned that when it comes down to football, everything is the same,” he said. “It’s the same 100 yards. Same schemes and everything.”

At times, Hutchings faced doubts and uncertainties about continuing football, but his love for the game and his teammates are what drove him to continue playing the sport.

“I did think about just focusing on school,” he said. “That did run through my mind a lot. But when it came down to it, I love the game so much I had to keep playing whether I received a scholarship or not. I fell in love with my teammates. That really helped me get through the hard times.

“You’ve got to work harder than everybody else,” Hutchings said. “And it’ll be noticed when you do.” 

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