A broken thumb sustained last season could prove to be a boon for Iowa state soccer team and receiver Xavier Hutchinson.
The Jacksonville, Fla. native established himself as one of the Big 12’s top pass catchers in 2020 and 2021, but his hopes of entering the NFL took a hit last December.
“I definitely looked into it,” said Hutchinson, who has 147 career receptions for 1,758 yards and nine touchdowns. “There were just certain things that I couldn’t control.”
Hutchinson underwent surgery after a piece of bone in his left thumb came loose, but he returned to play with a cast in the Cyclones’ 20-13 loss to Clemson in the Cheez-It Bowl.
His only catch in that game was a 34-foot dive against Tigers’ cornerback Mario Goodrich, now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, that lifted Iowa State fans and set an example for Hutchinson’s younger teammates.
“I was actually a little stunned,” Cyclone Jaylin Noel said of Hutchinson’s capture, “but again, it’s Xavier.”
This isn’t the first time Hutchinson’s dreams have been delayed or questioned.
He enrolled at Blinn (Texas) College after high school, but did not play in any of his first five games.
“I really didn’t think I was going to get any (scholarship) offers,” Hutchison said. “And I was sure no Power Five school would look at me.
“But coach (Matt) Campbell said he saw something in me, just from training.”
Campbell, who is entering his seventh season at Iowa State, took a chance on Hutchinson, who grew into a two-time first-team, all-Big 12 roster.
This summer, he was named on the Biletnikoff Award watchlist, which is presented annually to the nation’s top recipient.
“X is a unique player,” Campbell said. “He can do many different things. The best thing is to get football in his hands. He is a dynamic playmaker.”
Hutchinson will be the most reliable playmaker for a Cyclone offense replacing quarterback Brock Purdy, who spent 12,170 yards and 81 touchdowns over the past four years — giving Iowa State a record of 31-20 and appearing in four bowl games.
Hunter Dekkers is the new starter, having completed 20 of 36 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns as a backup in 2021.
Hutchinson is already Dekkers’ favorite target.
“It’s the best feeling a quarterback could wish for,” Dekkers said. “He is one of the best receivers in the country. He does everything very well.”
The Cyclones finished last season with a disappointing 7-6, after expectations for the program were raised after a record 9-3 in 2020 and the school’s first-ever appearance in the Big 12 Championship game.
Hutchinson’s thumb has completely healed and he wants to help the state of Iowa make it right.
“I think Hunter is a good quarterback,” said Hutchinson. “I’m just there to make him look good, and he to make me look good.”
Hutchinson’s former basketball-playing mother, Denise, and former track star father, Trent, both served in the Navy. The work ethic they instilled included the regular 6am wake-up calls for Xavier.
“They knew what they wanted from their son,” Hutchinson said.
Those expectations are passed on to the rest of the Cyclones.
“He’s a man who comes in and makes sure his leadership is felt,” Noel said of Hutchinson. “He makes sure the whole broad-receiver group is where they need to be and doing what they need to do.
“He as a teammate really takes our whole team to the next level.”
Hutchinson, meanwhile, embraces his role and his return to the state of Iowa.
“It was definitely a blessing in disguise,” he said of the injury. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”