The story of Michael Hutchings and Chris Hawkins:
This bond was built by USC Sigma Chi,
Trojan football, hot careers in coaching
An elite athlete has a lot of magical moments. In Michael Hutchings’ case, it may’ve been making a key tackle as team Captain setting up the Trojans’ 2017 Rose Bowl victory over Penn State 52-49.
But there came another moment off the field that changed his athletic life well after he graduated from USC.
Brother Hutchings, who is a Sigma Chi at Alpha Upsilon, opted not to pursue an NFL career. Instead, immediately upon graduating, he accepted a job offer that was already on the table in commercial real estate and financing. And he quickly fell in love with the work, and he quickly fell in love with the salary at such a young age.
He started in early summer after graduating. By late summer, he was at every home game on the Trojan’s sidelines watching the team vastly more intently than a normal fan would. In fact, it was pretty much assumed that Hutchings was not available to work the office on home game days.
And then it happened.
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For Hutchings, being a graduate assistant coach also allowed him to pursue his master’s degree in Communication Management.
“Young people are too often focused on others,” he said, explaining why he made a decision that he wanted instead of doing something that the conveyor belt of life decides for you. “Sometimes you have to make a decision for yourself.” All his mentors were supportive. Even those at his corporate office.
And, yes, he took a pay cut to keep pursuing his real passion. “A large pay cut!” he laughs. “That was a very big decision!” It was more about the long run and what could be even more lucrative down the road. “You’ve got to sacrifice a little. An extra amount of dollars isn’t worth not being happy.”
“But I always had an itch to get back, to get close to football.” This coming season will be his fourth year. He’s now the Trojan’s Defensive Quality Control Analyst with a focus on his old position as a linebacker. “I love to be around those guys, those kids, especially at my alma mater.”
BAD ASS: Michael Hutchings, Trojan football star turned coach has a parallel story in his best friend Chris Hawkins
It was a weekday when Hutchings got a phone call from Head Coach Clay Helton. Not many of us get an unannounced call from the Trojan Head Coach. In fact, we don’t even get an announced call from Coach Helton.
But Hutchings did. The coach had seen him on the sidelines barking to the players. “Coach Helton called me and said, ‘hey, I heard you had some interest’” in a graduate assistant coaching job with linebackers. Hutchings had already left football. He was done with football. He thought.
It seemed like only days later, Hutchings was back in the locker room – this time, helping to coach his former position.
TWO BROTHERS ON PARALLEL PATHS
But Hutchings’ story gets twice as good. Traveling a nearly identical path at nearly the identical time was his Sigma Chi pledge brother, fellow star player, roommate, and best friend Chris Hawkins – who also became an assistant coach but for USC rival Arizona State.
Every single day for the last eight years or so, one will call the other on the phone.
Hawkins is the Defensive Backs Coach at Arizona State hired in December 2019 under legendary head coach Herm Edwards. The Trojans play the Sun Devils in Tempe on November 6th when both brothers get to go head-to-head with each other and then slip each other the grip on the field after the game.
“That’s pretty much my brother,” says Hawkins matter-of-factly about his closeness to Hutchings. “I mean literally my brother.” They shared not only Sigma Chi but Trojan football as well – and now they share the same coaching position for opposing teams. And the two often celebrate Thanksgiving together at the Malibu home of Chapter Advisor Jeffrey Schwartz.
Wait, did he say kids, then guys? Well, which is it? Hutchings has been away for only a few years.
He laughs, “There’s still some guys on the team - 6-year players, because of Covid - 2-3 years that did play with me.” But some are much younger than he is. “Some are guys, some are kids!”
Because Hutchings was such a super star Trojan linebacker, he has credibility with the younger players. Just look at what the USC Athletic Office says about Hutching’s career as a player:
He was an inside linebacker for 4 seasons (2013-16) at USC, making 15 starts among his 52 games played and recording 118 tackles, including 8 for losses (with 3 sacks), 2 deflections and 1 interception in his career. He was a captain in 2016 on USC’s Rose Bowl champion team when he also made All-Pac-12 honorable mention and won the team’s Chris Carlisle Courage Award while getting 66 tackles (including 8 for losses, with 3 sacks) and 2 deflections.
Hutchings has his eye on a career in coaching, especially at the college level where passion reigns. “And that’s one reason why I love college football so much.” He says, “because from 18 to 22, there’s so much growth that happens...in that time period.”
Coaching is his life now. “That’s definitely my pathway and what I’m working towards. That’s my goal. Because this business is so, such a surprise, it fluctuates at a rapid pace. They call it ‘the coaching carousel’ in this industry.” Coaches move around a lot, especially after a head coaching change. He acknowledges, “It’s rough on the people around you.”
And Hutchings makes it clear, no matter where life takes him, his Sigma Chi roots will always be with him. “I am a proud Sigma Chi,” he says. “It helped shape my college experience. It helped me grow as a person, become more diverse. It helped me add another element to myself rather than just being an athlete, I got to add another identity to myself. “
The one tenet of Sigma Chi that helped him the most, he says, was different temperaments, talents and convictions. It’s helped him be a better coach to young men from diverse backgrounds.
Because he’s back on the USC campus, he wants to come over to the chapter house for a meal, a football presentation or just hanging out. “If they need help with anything, I’m still on campus, I’ll be there for them.”
He shares Thanksgiving each year with new Chapter Advisor Jeffrey Schwartz, an old friend.
Hutchings remains in touch with his other Sig brothers from his era at the chapter. Even though the football program prevented him from living in the fraternity, he took away values and lasting brotherhood.
Both guys have an incredible future in coaching.
“Chris impressed our staff as a young, up-and-coming coach who has a very bright future in our profession,” said the ASU head coach. “Chris played the position at an elite level at USC and the young players in our secondary will benefit from his knowledge and experience. Chris will be instrumental in recruiting Southern California for us as well.”
Hawkins, like Hutchings, relates well to young players because he, too, was a superstar player at an elite school.
Hutchings and Hawkins both know rising through the coaching ranks can be rough and tumble. But they are both ready to go places – college, the NFL, who knows. No matter where their paths lead, they’ll likely be on the phone with each other darn near every single day.
BROTHERS IN THE BOND: Michael Hutchings, above and below, and Chris Hawkins, right and below right, are both former star Trojan players drawn back to coaching football. They are closest friends, Sigma Chi brothers, former roommates, and will now be opponents when USC plays the Arizona State Sun Devils. But they talk on the phone every single day because of their unbreakable bond.
Chris Hawkins, Sigma Chi, best friend - now rival of Hutchings.