published Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Wiedmer: UTC Mocs' Patrick Sutton makes marketing a snap

UTC center Patrick Sutton gets into position during practice at Scrappy Moore Field.
UTC center Patrick Sutton gets into position during practice at Scrappy Moore Field.

In the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga weekly football media package, a one-sentence note is attached to each starter.

The note beside junior center Patrick Sutton this week reads: "Former walk-on has started every game of his career."

And if that were all the undersized Sevierville resident had accomplished in Mocsville, his career to date would have been unbelievably successful. Walk-ons just don't start every game possible, even if Sutton now has taken the field for the Mocs' opening offensive series in 24 straight contests heading into Saturday evening's visit from Austin Peay.

But that's also just the beginning for Sutton, a dean's list student majoring in Health and Human Performance with an eye toward entering the sports marketing world.

"We had him for an intern last summer," said Tim Morgan, head of the Chattanooga Sports Committee. "Everybody I put him in front of had glowing remarks for his performance. He had the utmost respect for clients and strategic partners. He was a real pleasure to work with."

This comes as no surprise to UTC coach Russ Huesman, who did not actively recruit Sutton at Sevier County High School but who couldn't be happier Sutton chose the Mocs.

"He's smart and he works hard," Huesman said a few weeks ago. "Patrick's not the biggest guy or the most athletic guy, but he gives you everything he has all the time. He does all those little things that help you win football games."

Never was that more apparent than in last Saturday's 42-14 win at Georgia State, when Sutton anchored an offensive line that masterfully did the dirty work needed to produce 401 rushing yards, including 147 from Keon Williams.

"One of the better moments in my career here," noted the 6-foot-1, 265-pound Sutton, who has gained more than 30 pounds since first arriving on campus. "It was electrifying. We had some really big plays as an offense. We felt like we had something to prove. Especially since we didn't show anything the first game."

The first game, a 31-21 home loss to UT-Martin on Aug. 29, may have helped the Mocs long-term, even if it could seriously hurt them in the pocketbook short-term, given all the fickle fans who once more will need to be convinced this team is worth watching live at Finley Stadium rather than listening to over the radio.

"We didn't do anything different," Sutton noted in explaining the practices and preparation heading into the Georgia State game. "Just better quality practices."

But he did mention one factor that may have played a role in the rather large egg the Mocs laid against the Skyhawks.

"I'm not sure what it was," Sutton said. "But there was a lot of hype around this program before that first game. The previous years haven't been that way."

But a summer spent with the Sports Committee has him considering the business of hype for a career.

"It's fun," said Sutton, whose range of assignments included attempting to convince a badminton tournament to come to Chattanooga -- "That one didn't work out," he said -- and working a golf tournament at Black Creek, several softball tournaments and the Gulf South Conference baseball tournament at AT&T Field.

"We put Patrick on the Gulf South tournament the first week he worked for us," Morgan recalled. "That was throwing a lot at him quick, yet he managed it in a very responsible manner."

Added Sutton: "It's not easy, but it's very easy to sell Chattanooga."

Somewhat in jest, Morgan tried to sell Sutton on running in next fall's Ironman Triathlon, which sold out almost as soon as registration opened.

"I've told him I could turn it into a reality show," Morgan said.

When you can go from walk-on to starting every game of your career at center as a dean's list student, completing an Ironman just might be a snap.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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