Vanderbilt QB hot topic of NFL Draft

Quarterback Jay Cutler throws during the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis on Sunday. For the moment at least, Cutler is the hot quarterback of the NFL Draft.

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Jay Cutler will be leaving Vanderbilt with much more than an excellent education.
He is the current hot topic of the NFL Draft, shooting so far up the charts after a strong performance at the combine that some analysts now consider him the top quarterback available - ahead of even Matt Leinart and Vince Young.
A quarterback from Vanderbilt? Traditionally, the worst team in the Southeastern Conference? A program that last had a quarterback drafted in 1990 - in the long-defunct 12th round?
Now you know why Cutler was determined not only to attend the combine that concluded earlier this week, but also answer every question and run every drill.
"With Matt and Vince not working out, the spotlight wasn't going to be on them. It was going to have to go somewhere else. That was the reason I wanted to step up and throw and get some of that media attention and kind of ride that wave a little bit," the SEC player of the year said Tuesday.
"You want to try to keep your name positive in the media as much as possible up until the draft."
So what if he nearly rallied the Commodores to victory in double overtime at Florida or beat Tennessee last November for Vandy's first victory in the series since 1982? Young almost single-handedly led Texas to a national championship last season. Leinart left USC with two national titles and a Heisman Trophy on his resume.
But the 6-foot-3, 223-pound Cutler has a strong arm and was smart enough to be accepted by the SEC's only private university, a picky school that turned down future NBA player Ron Mercer.
Cutler started wowing coaches and scouts at the Senior Bowl with his strong arm and decision-making. Not working out at the combine wasn't much of a consideration, and it's paid off with NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock calling Cutler the top quarterback in the draft.
"He's a fan of mine, so I'm a fan of his," Cutler said.
Other raves came from Sean Payton, the new coach of the New Orleans Saints, who hold the No. 2 pick overall. He compared Cutler to a young Brett Favre.
"It's an honor to be linked to someone at that level," said Cutler, who spoke to Favre before signing with his agent, Bus Cook. "He's one of the best quarterbacks ever. But I've got a long way to go before that comparison is going to be a reality."
The idea that Cutler might be among the first five draft picks hasn't hit him yet. Vanderbilt's best-known quarterback drafted by the NFL was Bill Wade, the top pick in 1952.
"It's kind of weird hearing that said a lot and thrown around. I'm just trying to enjoy as much as possible and have fun with my friends and still be the same person I was before," he said.
Cutler, who majored in human and organizational development, knows he's now due for the same scrutiny that Leinart and Young have endured as critics look for flaws.
There's his record as a starter: 11 victories out of 45 starts. He also had lots of passes tipped by defenders. On the plus side, the three-time captain also set a school record with 9,953 yards total offense, and he had his best season in 2005 with 3,073 yards passing.
That might be why Cutler is taking a few days off before he resumes throwing with some ex-teammates in preparation for Vanderbilt's pro day on March 17.
"Someone just said to me Mel Kiper was saying I was the most overhyped guy in the draft so far," Cutler said. "You get to the top, then people start picking at you. That's what happened with Vince and Matt."

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