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Almost all high school athletes have a Twitter handle, and for senior Malik Hutchings from Deer Valley of Antioch his is @LIKTHETRUTH.
Well, truth be told, like the old Chicago Bears’ nickname, “Monsters of the Midway,” this personable leader on and off the field, is a monster in the middle as a linebacker, and he’s arrived just in time for Halloween.
Malik had already secured this past week’s Northern California Player of the Week honor for his defensive performance a week ago Friday, but after hearing his phenomenal story, and some of the challenges he’s facing, we decided to wait and see what he did this past Friday, for presentation as a full-blown feature – and it was just more of the same.
Hutchings had double digit tackles in three of the Wolverines’ first four games, but it was his performance on October 4, with the Cal-Hi Sports Caravan roaming the sidelines of a 45-34 road win at Vacaville, that vaulted Hutchings into the limelight and onto some major college radar screens.
Vacaville, one of the best running teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section, had eight different running backs carry the ball, and Hutchings laid some wood on every one of them. He finished with 19 tackles (three for loss), four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
This past week, Malik and his teammates took on the state’s highest-ranked running back recruit, Joe Mixon from Freedom of Oakley. Deer Valley won the Bay Valley Athletic League opener 35-7, and Malik had 11 tackles and a sack to lead a defense that limited Mixon to 79 yards on 14 carries. He had three solo tackles of Mixon and was in on seven gang tackles of the Freedom star.
After six games, Hutchings now has 66 tackles, the four forced fumbles and two recoveries, two sacks, and a pass interception.
A lot of guys are putting up big numbers to help get teams to 6-0, so what’s so special about Malik? The twist is that these first six games are the only organized football games in which he’s ever played, plus there’s some adversity to add to the picture.
While his older brother, Michael Hutchings Jr., the 2012 Cal-Hi Sports Mr. Football State Player of the Year from De La Salle of Concord and now at USC, was working towards his honor, Malik was either in the stands watching, enjoying the game of baseball he loves and played, or he was on the basketball court playing for the Spartans.
Then, early this year, Malik’s father, Michael Hutchings Sr., was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
As a result, Malik transferred from De La Salle to Deer Valley, in his hometown of Antioch. This allowed him to be closer to home and provide support for his father.
Although he couldn’t play basketball, he was still maniacal in the weight room.
One day in late spring, a college recruiter from Texas El Paso had stopped by to see other Wolverines’ prospects, and saw Malik in the weight room. He asked Deer Valley head coach Rich Woods about him.
“I brought Malik over to him and when he saw his physique and size, he couldn’t believe a kid 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds who runs a 4.7 in the 40 wasn’t playing football,” Woods remarked. “He told Malik on the spot that if he played football he would offer him a scholarship.”
Since then, and before he ever played a down of organized football, Hutchings received two other offers from Hawaii and UC Davis, but it was after the UTEP chance meeting that Malik, together with encouragement from his uncle, James, decided to go for the gusto.
“I’m responsible for getting him to play football,” said James Hutchings, who also is a Deer Valley assistant. “I told him to do it for his dad. It would make him so happy and proud.”
“A lot of college coaches know my brother so they think I must have some talent,” Malik told Cal-Hi Sports before a practice last Wednesday. “But a lot of people thought I was hype, so when I saw you before the (Vacaville) game and you told me this was my game, I knew I had to show what I’m all about.”
Hutchings is so big and fast for a linebacker that he seems to be in on almost every tackle of an opposing running back. He also has immense strength that makes him impossible to block effectively.
“I feel he fills the void we’ve had on defense,” said Deer Valley quarterback and D1 prospect Nsimba Webster. “Even though he never played football he just knows the game from his brother, his dad, and his uncle.”
And what about Malik coming in and stealing some of the spotlight?
“We’ve known each other since we were little kids and went to the same middle school. I’m glad he’s on the team,” continued Webster, who passed for 188 yards and three TDs and rushed for 139 yards and two more scores in the Freedom victory.
Malik is starting to get additional interest as game film becomes available, and several other schools have expressed interest. While one of the originals, Hawaii, is still high on his list, if a Pac-12 school offered it would change the picture.
“If a Pac-12 school offered, that’s different. I like Washington State,” Malik remarked.
“He’s a great kid, one of the nicest boys I’ve ever coached. He reminded me of an Adrian Dantley-type basketball player,” said legendary De La Salle basketball coach Frank Allocco. “It takes some kids time to get it, but Malik’s got it, and it’s great for him to be able to get it before it’s too late.”
It’s a good thing Halloween is on a Thursday this year. The monster comes out the next night.
Harold Abend is the associate editor of CalHiSports.com and the vice president of the California Prep Sportswriters Association. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @HaroldAbend