DETROIT — Aidan Hutchinson unleashed his patented Michael Jackson leg kick after recording his second sack of the first half against Washington on Sunday as “Billie Jean” blasted throughout Ford Field. The No. 2 overall pick was playing inspired football, ending the game having collected a Lions single-game rookie record three sacks to help Detroit to a 36-27 victory.
His motivation? Five-year-old, red-headed Hudson Gazsi.
“This game is dedicated to Hudson, who is a kid who just got diagnosed with leukemia,” Hutchinson said after the game. “He’s a big Lions fan, he’s from my area. I sent him a video before the game. He was cheering me on. I’m just happy to have good games to spread causes to kids like that. Just raise a lot of awareness for things like that.”
A couple hours ahead of his second NFL regular-season game, Hutchinson recorded a selfie-style video inside the stadium for Gazsi, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) Sept. 7.
“Just keep pushing through and keep hanging in there,” Hutchinson told Gazsi in the video. “I know you’re kind of going through it right now, but hopefully you find a little motivation in watching our game on Sunday and keep rooting for me and put on the little eye black in support of me and I’m gonna have you on my wrist on my game tape in a couple hours so it’s gonna be a really good time and I can’t wait to meet you, man. Go Lions.”
Gazsi originally went to the hospital Aug. 28 after spraining an ankle while riding an electric scooter. After contracting a fever that lasted a week and following two urgent care visits, his parents, Emily and Billy, realized something wasn’t right. They took Hudson to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, where he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“They pretty much said Hudson spraining his ankle pretty much saved his life because otherwise we might not have known,” Emily Gazsi told ESPN. “We’ve caught it really early and he has a really good prognosis. It’s a long recovery, it’s like 2-3 years with treatment, and he’s 5, so it’s been really tough trying to get him to take his meds — and he has a port in his chest now that he has to deal with. He did name the port Jimmy so we’re gonna navigate Jimmy, but we’ve got so much love and support that it’s been kind of overwhelming … we’re so grateful and thankful.”
Hutchinson’s mother, Melissa, made the connection with Emily after learning of Hudson’s story through social media. Together, they created a Facebook and Instagram page called Hudson Ford Tough to raise awareness about Hudson’s journey with leukemia in hopes of inspiring others.
Melissa sent the personalized video from her son to Emily to show Hudson ahead of Detroit’s Week 2 game.
“These videos that they keep sending Hudson are making him smile ear to ear,” Emily said. “Hudson knows how cool it is, but my other two sons, Brayden and William, are like, ‘Dude, do you know who just sent that to you,’ and he’s like, ‘Yeah, tell them I said hi.'”
The Gazsi family are diehard Lions fans who attend the yearly Thanksgiving Day game and also live close to the Hutchinson family in Plymouth, Michigan. They’ve followed Hutchinson’s career from nearby Divine Child High School to the University of Michigan and now with the Lions.
Emily said the video was special and lifted Hudson’s spirits on what she described as a difficult day with chemotherapy being tough on his body.
Hudson’s story helped fuel Hutchinson’s huge game on the field.
The last time a rookie had 3.0 sacks in one of his first two career games was in 2002, when Julius Peppers (Carolina Panthers), Carlos Hall (Tennessee Titans) and Ben Leber (Chargers) all did it. He’s now added to the list, logging all three sacks in the first half.
“That’s pretty damn cool,” Hutchinson said, laughing. “But I think it’s a culmination of every guy on that defensive line. It’s everyone just doing their jobs and I got a lot of the fruits of it this week, so I’m just blessed, and I thought I made the most of my opportunities this week and it’s a full team effort on that defensive line.
“Sacks are a very tedious thing, so you need everyone clicking and I thought we were clicking today.”