July 22, 2015

Former NFL Punter Trades His Gridiron Thrills For Real Estate Deals

By Don Wade
– Commercial Appeal –

A punter in the National Football League for five seasons, Hutton was to kick the ball far — but not so far that the ball went into the end zone and was placed on the opponent’s 20-yard line.

No, sheer power and distance weren’t good enough. He needed to try to drop the punt inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line, preferably inside the 10-yard line and, better still, inside the 5-yard line.

In other words, it was all about location, location, location.

"In the NFL, it gets so technical," said Hutton, 36, now an assistant vice president at Boyle Investment Group, and a former pro punter for five seasons after starting for four years at the University of Tennessee.

"They look at hang time, placement, get-off time," he continued. "If you’re not good in all those areas, you won’t stay."

To have a punt blocked was to fail. To have a punt returned for a touchdown, or even for a long gain, was to fail. To kick the ball too short was to fail.

Even to have a couple of days of poor practices was to fail. And to fail more than on rare occasions in games was to become unemployed.

"When you’re used to that kind of pressure, it can prepare you for a lot of things after football," said Gary Anderson, for 23 seasons an NFL placekicker, and a teammate of Hutton’s in 1995-96 with the Philadelphia Eagles.

What it didn’t prepare Hutton for was the lack of immediate feedback. When he came to Boyle in 2001, after having knee surgery three years earlier and being cut by the Green Bay Packers in their 2000 training camp, Hutton didn’t know how to measure his performance.

When he kicked a football, even in practice, he knew whether he had done well or not.

"You could always tell if you dropped the ball properly. If you don’t have a good drop, it’s not going to feel right coming off your foot," he said.

But real estate? Deals take hours, days, weeks, months, years … not seconds.

So, almost daily, Hutton would go into Boyle executive vice president Mark Halperin’s office and ask: "How am I doing?"

"I probably drove him crazy," Hutton said. "But I was used to being evaluated every day."

Said Halperin: "He made the transition pretty well. He knew he couldn’t live on his laurels as an athlete, emotionally or financially.

"And he has a phenomenal competitive nature, but it’s under the surface."

Former Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders might disagree. Once, after Sanders returned Hutton’s punt for a touchdown, Hutton tackled "Prime Time" in the end zone.

"He was high-stepping, I was hanging onto him, and there was a split second when I thought, ‘Should I bring him down?’ "Hutton recalled with a smile. "He just scored on me, so I decided to go ahead and tackle him."

Said Anderson: "Tom always had a fair bit of tenacity."

Now, it just shows itself in different places and in different ways. Hutton serves on the board of the Children’s Museum of Memphis.

"He has a presence about him," said museum CEO Dick Hackett. "But he has a calming effect when you’re in the heat of battle."

It is a trait that has always impressed his father, attorney Tom Hutton. Or as he said: "I know I couldn’t stand out there in front of 90,000 people and try to kick a football."

Not that kicking a football was all he did. Knowing how tenuous NFL jobs can be, Hutton learned how to be the holder for extra-point attempts and field goals, and sometimes handled kickoffs, too.

He takes the same approach at Boyle, saying, "I try to learn as much as I can. And from a competitive standpoint, you want to be the best you can be … you want to make as many deals as you can."

The goal, then, is the same as it ever was: Winning.

"Probably 80 percent of the guys I played with in the NFL are broke," Hutton said. "I knew football wasn’t going to last forever."