Prior to Jay Cutler's arrival at Vanderbilt University in 2002, the Commodores had not won more than two SEC games since 1991. Over his first three seasons at Vandy, Cutler won only two total, but then led them to a 3-5 record in conference play as a senior, and a 5-6 record overall. It was the closest the school had come to a bowl game since 1982.
Despite his not-so-aesthetically pleasing 11-35 career record at Vandy, he is without a doubt the best quarterback in the school's history. He took a garbage program and made them competitive in the toughest conference in college football, punctuating his career with an SEC Offensive Player of the Year award as a senior. NFL scouts took notice, and Cutler wound up being selected 11th overall by the Denver Broncos in 2006 NFL Draft. This all made you wonder, how the hell did he end up at Vanderbilt? Cutler, an Indiana native, didn't even get a look from Notre Dame (they did have a guy named Brady Quinn at the same time Cutler played for Vandy).
On the latest episode of the "Pardon My Take" podcast, Cutler told the story of how he chose to go to Vanderbilt, and it's exactly the type of absurd story you'd expect from Cutler. It's a little long, but it's well worth the read. First, the former Bronco, Chicago Bear and Miami Dolphin talked about what other schools were recruiting him out of high school, which yielded this interesting nugget.
"Purdue, but they wanted me to play safety. Illinois, Ron Turner was there, and they offered me, I committed. And then they called me like a week later and said 'ya know, this kid from California, he wants to come, so we want you to take the first semester off and come in in January.' I was like, 'well I'm not doing that.'"
"And then Vandy called and I was like, 'well, I got nothing else going on.'
Cutler, a legendary quarterback at Heritage Hills High School, also played safety there for three years. According to his Wikipedia page, he picked off nine passes as a senior, and made 19...NINETEEN tackles in the State Championship game. Legend! Still, it's hard to imagine Jay Cutler playing safety in the Big Ten. Luckily for him, Vanderbilt called, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Have I not told you the story of how I ended up at Vandy? Oh, gosh. So it's basketball season and it's early January and I get a call, you know at school they did the intercom thing, 'Jay Cutler, come to the office.' I'm like, what's happening now? Get to the office and they're like 'hey, the AD wants to talk to you.' So I go down there and he's like 'Vandy called, they want to talk to you.' And they're like 'hey, we just watched your tape, we're just kind of cleaning up the rest of our recruiting. We'd like you, but we don't think you can play tight end in the SEC.' I was like 'well, that's fine, I don't even play tight end.'
And then he was like 'well, who is this?' I told him my name and he's like 'alright, well, we see your tape, we'll watch it and we'll call you back in a little bit.' I'm like 'OK.' Hang up the phone and look at [the AD] and I'm like 'they're not calling, can I go back to class now?' So I go back to class and literally three hours later, same thing. I get down there [to the AD's office] and he's like 'hey, they're on the phone,' and I talk to him and he's like 'we love the tape, we want you to come to Vandy, we have a scholarship for you but we need to know by the end of the day.'
I was like, why? He's like 'well we've got these two other people, there are two scholarships left and three kids out there just waiting on them. Whoever gets them first gets them.'
Now, I don't even know where Vandy is, I'm in Indiana, Big Ten country, and I'm like 'where is Vandy?' No idea. So I look at the AD and I'm like 'hey, I gotta go home, I've gotta figure this out, talk to my dad.' So I go home and it's like the dial up internet thing, I get on and it's making all those noises and I'm looking at Vandy, Nashville, I'm like 'where the hell is Nashville?' Trying to figure this out. And I call my dad and I tell him and he's like 'oh, you're going,' and I'm like, I don't even know where this place is and he's like 'you're going, just call them back and tell them you're going.'
So I did a little bit more research, whatever a 17-year-old kid could do at that point, called them back and I'm like 'alright, I'm in, let's do this.' Two weeks later went down for a visit and the rest is history.
So nonchalant. So Cutler. His career is not one that is getting the NFL Network "A Football Life" treatment anytime soon, but you better believe people would watch the hell out of it if it did. For more Cutler gold, listen to the full podcast here.