Hutton’s journey of a lifetime

Go long: Tom Hutton in action for the Oklahoma State Cowboys, during a Big 12 Championship game in 2021. Photographs supplied




GIPPSLANDER abroad, Tom Hutton, has recently shared his experiences from his time in the US, while playing college football for Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Originally from Yallourn North then Newborough, Hutton, along with his mate, Jordy Sandy, first tried punting at ProKick Australia.

The two worked together at the Maryvale mill from 2016 to 2018, a lot of the time they were on the same shift, working in a little control room.

After some time, it became evident that a dream they didn’t know they had, would soon become a reality.

Hutton was offered a scholarship to Oklahoma State University – moving into a town called Stillwater, while his mate, Sandy, went a little further south to Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, just outside of Dallas.

In the 2022 season, Hutton played his final year of college football, as the punter for the Cowboys.

Throughout the four years in Oklahoma, Hutton has described it as a mixture of “the most amazing time” and “the toughest time”.

“The first year was unreal playing football in front of huge crowds and living a crazy dream, while my wife Kelsey, and I were immersing ourselves in the US culture,” he said.

“Then COVID hit after we were here for about a year, and we were effectively locked out of Australia for two years.

“Although it was a tough time, I think we grew enormously as people over that period, and we really began to put things in perspective and think about what is important in our lives.”

Hutton’s college football career has plenty of good memories, but he nails his favourite down in a moment, where he does what a punter doesn’t normally do.

“It’s pretty hard for punters to have highlight worthy moments, just due to the nature of the gig, but against Baylor in my first year (2019), we ran a fake punt, so I actually got to throw a pass, which surprisingly went perfectly to plan,” Hutton said.

“It was our big homecoming game so the stadium was packed, and fake punts don’t happen very often so the crowd went nuts, that was a really surreal experience.”

Outside of football, Hutton was able to experience the American culture in many different ways.

“Just the whole experience of living in the states and the opportunities it opens up,” he said.

“Kelsey and I will randomly decide to go watch an NBA game every now and then, so we can just drive 45 minutes to the stadium and watch a (Oklahoma City) Thunder game, or drive down to Dallas for an NFL game, or just during the week at any time of the year we can go watch the other Oklahoma State teams playing basketball or soccer, softball, wrestling.

“It’s just a very lively lifestyle that I’m going to miss.”

As a college student, Hutton had to study a course while in the US.

While there, he studied a Bachelors degree in Construction Engineering Technology and in around three months, Hutton will graduate with his degree.

As previously mentioned, Hutton entered this experience with his good mate, Sandy, and the two were able to play against each other on some occasions.

“We only live about four hours away (from each other), with him (Sandy) being in Dallas, so we still catch up quite a bit.

“(Lining up against Sandy) was unreal. To be working together in Australia and then all of a sudden we are playing against each other in a sport we don’t really know much about, on the other side of the world, in front of 60,000 people and millions on TV.

“I still pinch myself in moments like that, and it’s awesome to experience it with a good mate.”

Hutton highlighted the biggest difference between college football and local Aussie Rules is simply the size of the two.

“We have our own plane that flies us to away games, then we get police escorted along the highways in busses to 100,000-seat stadiums that are packed every single week.

“Our games are broadcast on national TV and all around the world.

“Most people outside of the US don’t realise, but college football is actually bigger than the NFL in many ways. If you ask someone over here which NFL team they barrack for, most of them don’t have a team. But ask them which college they support and you can almost guarantee they name one.”

As much as he’d like to move back home, Hutton says he will miss the US.

“The experiences that are possible by living over here, and the buzzing, vibrant atmosphere of Stillwater is very unique and we will definitely miss it,” he said.

Hutton has taken away so many experiences from his journey.

“I feel like every few months, we are ticking off a new bucket list item. But I think I will probably look back on the tough times the most fondly, in a weird way, due to the growth that came from in and the perspective that it has given us,” he said.

Upon his return, Hutton looks forward to re-joining forces with the current reigning premiers of the North Gippsland Football League – Yallourn Yallourn North Jets.

“Watching from afar, I’ve been so proud of the progress YYN has made over the last six to seven years, as a club – not just with on field success,” Hutton said.

“They have built such a young, fun, family atmosphere and I can’t wait to get back involved in it!”

Hutton is only now recovering from a torn ACL, which he suffered in October last year, so we might have to wait until 2024 to see him don the Jets guernsey.

While Hutton is returning from his college football experience, it leaves the potential for most Australians to get involved in the sport.

“Just get out and try it,” he said.

“You’re never going to feel completely ready, but you’ll figure it out as you go. That goes for anything in life.

“Too many people wait to do something they really want to do because they don’t feel like they belong or they don’t feel completely ready, and often they never do it at all because of this mindset.

“Just get started and you’ll learn on the way. Everyone else is just trying to figure it out too!”

Valley boys: Tom Hutton (right) pictured with good mate Jordy Sandy, as the two faced off against each other in the US.