Sutton returns for senior year

In sharp contrast to his explosive play on the field, Will Sutton is soft spoken and a man of few words. But the short opening statement he made on at a Tuesday afternoon press conference was just as impactful as one of his many game changing plays this past season.

"It's been a great season," Will Sutton said. "We finished 8-5 - a good accomplishment - and we're bowl champions. It's been a hard and long decision, but my decision is that I'm going to stay and play another year."

The reigning Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year remarked that he did weigh all the pros and cons of entering the NFL draft versus returning for his senior year with the Sun Devils and those two factors ultimately dictated his decision.

"Coming back to win a championship, doing it for my teammates and getting an education and my degree," Sutton described. "I took everybody's advice and I listened to what everybody had to say. You can tell who's saying things just to tell you and who's telling you stuff to really help you out.

"I had to one day just sit down with myself and figure out what I'm going to do. I talked to (former Sun Devil teammate) Omar (Bolden) lots of times; he was a big help in giving me advice. But it's my choice at the end of the day, so they just gave me advice about if I stay or go."

The defensive lineman added that the feedback he received from the National Football League naturally impacted his decision as well. It included not only a draft projection but also critique of his game.

Arizona State Head Coach Todd Graham, who was present at the Sutton press conference, saw Sutton's action as a validation to the team culture he has instituted in his first year in Tempe.

"I think it speaks volumes about his character and the development we've had here," Graham said. "I sat down with Will and spent time with him and his parents just like I would anybody. At the end of the day, I told him he has to do what's best for him. 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. And wanting to get an education - he's going to be able to finish his degree as early as this summer. He loves Arizona State University and his teammates, and obviously I'm excited because it's a big deal for us to have him back."

Graham added that Sutton returning for his senior year showed the belief the junior had in his teammates and their chances of capturing the Pac-12 crown. The Sun Devils skipper was also proud that the lineman didn't choose what perhaps some would see as the more convenient decision to make in this situation.

"When you look at his education and his development, the easy thing to do was to come out," Graham said. "He chose his team and his family, and their wanting him to finish his education. That's a great story because a lot of people don't make that decision.

"Most people expected him not to come back. But he's his own person, and he's obviously committed to what we're doing here, his team, his family and his education."

As a junior Sutton became the first Sun Devil since Terrell Suggs in 2002 to earn consensus First Team All-America honors. His 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks in 2012 both rank fourth on the school's single-season list, and he led the Pac-12 with 1.08 sacks and 1.96 TFLs per game. Sutton also added 63 tackles, three forced fumbles and five pass breakups, despite missing one game and the majority of another due to injury.

As stellar as the 2012 campaign has been for him, Sutton feels that he can eclipse those gaudy statistics in this upcoming season.

"I'm going to do some great things," Sutton declared. "We're going to do some great things. 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." A big weight has been lifted off Will Sutton's shoulders, and the same probably goes for the Sun Devil nation as well. With his decision now behind him, Sutton is concentrated on the next task ahead of him.

"Now I can get to work. I have class at six o'clock."

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