By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
Neil Hutchins never played football; not even once. He couldn’t — he was born with an incomplete spine. In spite of his condition, Hutchins was a huge football fan.
“He’s one of the biggest Clovis Wildcats fans that ever lived,” Larry Hutchins, Neil’s brother, said.
Neil was born with spina bifida, a neural tube defect that forced him to have countless surgeries, bound him to a wheelchair and eventually cost him his life on April 24 at the age of 36.
“All his life he had problems,” Larry Hutchins said. “Never once did he complain or blame God.”
Neil was born in Clovis and got his love for the Wildcats from Walter Hutchins, his father. For years, son and father would attend every Clovis football game, watching from under a light pole near the endzone.
“He was a dedicated Wildcat fan,” Clovis coach Eric Roanhaus said. “He and his dad followed us everywhere — Hobbs, Albuquerque, Las Cruces — everywhere. If we had a game on Mars, he would have found a way to get a space ship.”
After his parents passed away, Neil had to move to Albuquerque to live with a sister. Because of the distance and his worsening condition, he could rarely attend Wildcats games, but he still tried to follow his favorite team on the radio.
“It broke his heart to live in Albuquerque,” Suzy Hutchins, his sister, said. “He thought Coach Roanhaus was the most fabulous coach who ever lived.”
Neil also had a passion for politics and patriotism. He was a proud member of the Republican Party and the Republican National Committee.
“I wish you could have seen the look in his eyes when he looked at an American flag,” Suzy Hutchins said. “I joined the Army because of him. He was the most amazing, extraordinary person you’d ever meet in your life.”
Family members said, without the disability, Neil Hutchins would have joined the Army and played football, but because he was unable to, he supported and followed those passions with all his heart.
“I have no doubt that if he could play he would have been better than me,” Larry Hutchins, who played for Clovis in the ’70s, said.
Neil Hutchins was a big supporter of George W. Bush, but his favorite president of all time was Ronald Reagan.
“I remember watching TV with him,” Dorothy Hutchins said. “When Reagan said, ‘Tear down this wall,’ it did something to him.”
Family members said he was crushed when Reagan died in 2004.
“He’s probably having a meeting with him right now,” Suzy Hutchins said.
In Tribute is a regular feature. To suggest an honoree, contact CNJ managing editor Rick White at 763-6991 or by e-mail: email@example.com