TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona State coach Todd Graham probably got the best sleep he has in quite some time Tuesday night. Instead of not knowing if the centerpiece of his defense was returning in 2013, he went to bed knowing he wouldn’t have to wake up to Day 1 of the post-Will Sutton era.
There have been numerous other concerns bouncing around in Graham’s head, but Sutton’s pending decision had to be chief among them. With Sutton committed to play one more year with the Sun Devils, Graham can cross one worry off his list.
Sutton kept Graham and the rest of Sun Devil nation waiting tensely for the verdict. Graham said he didn’t know what Sutton’s decision was until it came out of Sutton’s mouth at Tuesday’s press conference.
“Most people expected this to go the other way,” Graham said.
Even athletic department staffers didn’t know until early in the day that Sutton planned to announce his decision, which led to a hastily planned event for which local media received about 90 minutes notice. But when did Sutton make the final call?
“Today, really,” Sutton said Tuesday.
Perhaps the decision actually came a day or two earlier, but either way only Sutton and his parents, Mickey and Kim, who sat beside him as he announced his decision, knew what he would say. Sutton said he didn’t want word of his verdict to leak before the announcement, so he kept even his coach and teammates in the dark.
A number of those teammates came to hear Sutton’s decision. Among them were safety Alden Darby, linebacker Carl Bradford, defensive end Davon Coleman and quarterback Michael Eubank.
“I didn’t know exactly what he was going to say, but I had a feeling he was going to come back,” Darby said. “That’s what I told everyone. I said ‘He’s going to come back,’ but I didn’t know. I just had a feeling.”
Added Eubank, who played with Sutton at Corona Centennial High School: “He kind of hinted stuff to me back when the season was coming to an end, but I never said anything to anybody. He kind of told me where he was leaning.”
Eubank, Sutton and senior linebacker Brandon Magee traveled together last month to watch their alma mater take on Concord De La Salle in a state championship game. Eubank says Sutton’s decision never came up, but hints from previous conversations showed up at the press conference.
“He said exactly what he said (Tuesday): He wanted to come back and get his degree, and that was the biggest thing to him,” Eubank said. “We just sat back and let him do his thing. We didn’t bug him about it too much.”
The rest of the world did, from Twitter followers to strangers on the street or on ASU’s campus. It was all to no avail, as Sun Devil Nation found out all at once. So did the rest of the Pac-12, who will know have to deal with one more year of Sutton.