Sutton 'honored and humbled' to make ASU Hall of Fame
When Jay Sutton approached Forest Hills High football coach John Lowery about trying out for the kicking job in February of 1990, he never dreamed it would open the door to his future.
Sutton went on to earn a football scholarship to Appalachian State, and will be inducted into ASU's Sports Hall of Fame during halftime of Saturday's home opener against North Carolina A&T (6 p.m. kickoff).
Now an associate athletic director, and the highest-ranking administrator involved with the ASU football program, the upcoming induction has given Sutton reason to pause and reflect.
"I'm humbled and honored," Sutton said Thursday morning by telephone. "Its flattering. I think back on all the good people in my life. The teachers and the coaches and my incredible family. It's a reflection on all of those people."
Sutton, then a freshman in high school, remembers asking Lowery if he could be considered for the opening at kicker. Lowery took Sutton out on the field, despite the winter conditions, and found his kicker for the next three years.
Three Februarys later, Sutton signed a half-scholarship to kick for the Mountaineers, and was bumped up to a full scholarship as a sophomore.
Nearly two decades later, Sutton remains the most accurate field goal kicker in ASU history, converting 40-of-53 attempts (75.7 percent) during his career.
Sutton made third-team all-American as a senior, and all-Southern Conference twice. He helped ASU's 1995 team go 11-0.
Sutton continues to have an impact on the Mountaineers' football program.
His duties include scheduling football games, and former head coach Jerry Moore credits Sutton for his persistence in getting the Michigan game scheduled in 2007.
ASU made history on Sept. 1, 2007, defeating fifth-ranked Michigan in front of roughly 110,000 fans.
It's still the only time a Division I-AA school has ever beaten a top-5 I-A school, and is considered by many as the greatest upset in college football history. Sports Illustrated made it a cover story, and it all started with a phone call by Sutton.
"Our SID shared with me that Vanderbilt and Michigan had a game scheduled but one of them dropped," Sutton said. "So I called Michigan and said 'You looking for somebody to play? We'll play you.' There was some back and forth negotiating and I remember Coach Moore saying 'Make them tell us no.' I took that to mean stay persistent and that's what I did."
Looking back on it, Sutton's decision to pursue a game with Michigan has helped propel ASU to new heights. The Mountaineers are now transitioning to Division I-A (FBS).
Sutton deflects the credit.
"I've scheduled some games where we've gotten our butts beat, too, so it's a two-way street," he said. "It was a special day for our program and hat's off to those kids for making it happen. It's amazing to see how many of those guys are playing on Sundays now. I don't know the exact number but 90-something percent of them graduated and now they're leaders in their communities and good husbands and fathers."
Sutton understands how a particular moment in time can be life altering, and that's why it means so much to him that Lowery will make the drive up to Boone on Saturday to witness the induction.
"Playing football at Forest Hills meant a lot to me at that point and it still means a lot to me to this day," Sutton said. "Coach Lowery is tops on my list, no matter what list it is."