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January 8, 2013
As media members streamed past him into the third floor Dutson Theater for the press conference called Tuesday on his behalf, Arizona State star defensive tackle Will Sutton was enjoying a quick bite while sitting on a couch in the lobby. It seemed only fitting.
He'll be "eatin'" a lot more at Arizona State in the year ahead, literally and figuratively.
Surprising most people around the program, including several of his teammates, Sutton announced he will return for his senior collegiate campaign in the fall.
"It's been a hard and long decision, but my decision is that I'm going to stay and play another year," said Sutton, sitting beside his parents and ASU coach Todd Graham at a press conference.
After recording 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks in 2012, each of which he celebrated with his "we eatin'" dance, Sutton was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year while also becoming the first consensus All-American at the school since Terrell Suggs.
Because he became so decorated, the majority opinion was that Sutton would decide to forgo his last season in Tempe and enter the NFL draft. But just because he doesn't have very many more personal accomplishments to attain, doesn't mean Sutton felt his work at ASU was done.
"I'm going to do some great things and we're going to do some great things," he said. "You just have to wait until the season comes back. I'm just going to get hard work in and train, which is something we all have to do. Getting more wins is the main thing. Just like this year, time will tell, and if I make as many plays as I did, then good things will happen. But the main objective is just to win."
Besides winning a handful of awards, another reason why Sutton was expected to turn pro was for fear of further injury to his knee that he hurt in the Oregon last fall, which ostensibly caused him to miss two games. But according to him, that anxiety didn't play a major role in his decision.
"At first I thought about it, but it's something you can't worry about because injuries are going to happen anywhere down the road," Sutton said. "I didn't dwell on it a lot."
One of the few people who did expect Sutton to return was Graham. The ASU coach said throughout the final portion of the year he thought his star player would come back, despite trying not to pressure him in any direction.
"At the end of the day, I told him he has to do what's best for him," Graham said. "Obviously I'm a little biased, but I want what's best for him. He's the best defensive lineman I've ever coached. I think it speaks volumes about his commitment to our team. I think his teammates had a lot to do in that decision, and wanting to come back and lead this team to a Pac-12 Championship, a Rose Bowl Championship, and a National Championship."
Sutton's father, Mickey, who played in the NFL for five seasons in the late 1980s, helped in his son's decision making process, but he too wanted Will to make the choice for himself.
"We tried to give him the pros and cons on both sides and present him with all of the information that we could and to give him the information he needed to make a sound, solid decision," Mickey said. "It came down to, basically, it's going to be his decision, because he's going to be the one that's here or the one that goes."
In the back of the room that held Sutton's press conference were a few of his teammates, anxiously waiting to hear what their defensive leader would do. ASU sophomore Carl Bradford was caught off guard by Sutton's announcement, but was elated to have his friend and mentor back with him.
"I'm happy, the dynamic duo is back," Bradford said. "It's going to be a wreck next year with us two."