Will Sutton: I’ll delay NFL to bring a championship to ASU

Arizona State‘s football fortunes for next season just took a huge turn for the better.  The Sun Devils’ defense will be returning.

OK, so it’s just one player that has publicly committed to return, but that one player is Will Sutton – the heart and soul of a 2012 defense that was one of the best in the Pac-12 this year.

With his parents sitting on his right at the press conference table, and head coach Todd Graham flanking him on the left, the 270-pound lineman announced to the world late yesterday afternoon that he has decided to return to Tempe rather than throw his name into the NFL draft – where he had been projected as a second- or third-round pick.

He wants to spend another year chasing college quarterbacks instead of chasing the money.

Hey, what’s a few million dollars when he can help his alma mater to a conference -and maybe even a national – championship?  That lofty goal was thrown about more than once between the first-year coach and his star athlete, who has one more year of college eligibility remaining.

Graham believes that, to have any aspirations of national prominence, you have to begin with the defense  – using Stanford as an example.  He pointed out that the Cardinal had the best defense in the Pac-12, and won the conference championship this year.

And that high level of defensive success begins with athletes like Sutton, who has probably begun expanding his trophy case at home after a boatload of honors and awards this season.

To wit:  A consensus All-American… Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year… Defensive Player of the Game in ASU’s 62-28 rout of Navy in the Kraft Hunger Bowl… recipient of the Morris Award, given to the top defensive lineman in the Pac-12… inclusion in the watch list for the Maxwell Award, honoring the outstanding collegiate football player in America… and a semi-finalist for the Bednarik Award, given to the top defensive player in the country.

So it’s understandable that the young man has been under enormous pressure to take his talents to the next level.   Now that indecision is behind him and preparation for another college season is ahead.

“A lot of stress is gone now that we’ve got this over with,” Sutton admitted to the media.  He and his parents met with Graham earlier in the day and made the final decision.

“And it was really stressful for me,” a smiling Graham added in follow-up comments.

But his thankful coach, who admitted his bias while trying to keep his advice objective, made reference more than once to how proud he was that Sutton would choose the completion of his education over a chance to get into pro ball right away.  “It speaks volumes about his character,” Graham pointed out.

As if to validate what his coach was saying, he responded to a question about what’s next for him now that he has made the decision.

“I’ve got class at 6 o’clock,” he replied with a wide grin, getting a big laugh that helped relieve the tension of the event – and no doubt went over well with his parents.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)