For two hours inside the Wynfrey Hotel, site of the conference's annual media soiree, everywhere Cutler went, a crowd followed. It was an uncharacteristic scene for a player from Vanderbilt-- whose players are seldom accompanied by an entourage. Those things are generally left for the Spurriers, Fulmers and Tubervilles of the world. (Also quarterbacks whose last name is Manning.)
Yet here was Cutler, the pride of Santa Claus, Ind., and the key to Vanderbilt's 2005 football hopes, being hounded by cameramen, reporters and info-babes, all seeking an exclusive. The reason? Just one week earlier, Cutler had been voted by the league's coaches as the first-team Preseason All-SEC quarterback.
Cutler seemed to enjoy his celebrity -- for two solid hours he gabbed pretty much non-stop. After spending a good 45 minutes on radio row doing a bevy of live and taped interviews, Cutler headed upstairs to meet with the print and TV media. It was a drill with which the Vandy signal-caller is now familiar.
"I've been really honored since I've been at Vanderbilt, and have had a lot of positive things happen to me," the fifth-year senior told one radio station. "This is my third time here. I've been a captain three years now. Now I've been voted pre-season All-SEC."
Over three seasons, Cutler has thrown for 5,624 yards, and stands a good chance to break the school passing yardage and total offense records (among many others). Still, his selection over Florida's Chris Leak was a somewhat controversial one. Cutler holds the experience edge over Leak (four seasons in college vs. Leak's two), but acknowledges he has thus far come up short in one key area for the Commodores-- over his 34 career starts, the team's record is a meager 6-28.
"We've got to win some football games now and then," Cutler added, emphatically. "That's the way I want to leave, as one of the guys on the team that turned things around."
The talented fifth-year senior is one of 12 projected returning starters for a team that finished with only two wins. Still, Cutler and his mates found encouragement in the fact that five of last season's nine losses came by a collective total of 15 points.
"We just have to learn how to close the deal, and that comes from believing in your teammates and yourself. If it comes down to me leading them in the fourth quarter and putting the ball in my hands, I'll take my chances.
"It's nice to be the preseason All-SEC quarterback, but what I'd really like to be is the All-SEC quarterback at the end of the season."
When Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson made his appearance on radio row, he was wearing a sling to protect a broken collar bone. Naturally, it was the subject of a lot of questions, not to mention a good deal of good-natured kidding by the sports jocks.
Johnson had previously explained he had broken the collar bone in a bike accident that happened while he was on vacation at a South Carolina beach. But everyone sought more information.
"I was bicycling along the beach in the morning, and I hit a soft patch of sand, and before I knew it, the wheel slipped out from under me," Johnson explained. "It threw me, and I hit the ground hard. The sand may have been soft where I slipped, but where I hit, it was rock hard."
Was he trying to do a Lance Armstrong impersonation?
"No, I wasn't going very fast," he said. "No one would have confused me for Lance."
"When I heard about it, I was like, c'mon, Coach, what's the real story?" laughed Cutler. "I hope everyone will give him some trash about it."
"Moses makes us click back there," Johnson said. "He was not only preseason All-SEC now, but he was first team All-SEC last year because he was one of the leading tacklers in the conference and Moses is just one of those guys that has a knack, he knows where the ball is going. He has some ability to get away from blockers, or go through them or around them, and make tackles. So he's been very consistent for us."
Osemwegie insisted the Vanderbilt defense should be improved in 2005, despite the loss of five starters, and the move of three others to unfamiliar positions.
"I believe the guys we have coming in are going to help a lot," Osemwegie said. "They showed their talent and their skills during the spring, some of the redshirt guys. I believe we have a lot of talent. They're hidden right now, just waiting to be unleashed."
Osemwegie, nattily attired in a grey suit, credited senior safety Kelechi (Q-Cutty) Ohanaja and sophomore linebacker Marcus Buggs as his fashion consultants.
The 2005 Vanderbilt football media guide, designed and edited by assistant SID Larry Leathers, made its debut at Media Days. The tome, Vandy's biggest ever at 204 pages, features Cutler, Osemwegie and senior receiver Erik Davis on the front cover. The back cover features seniors Kelechi Ohanaja (safety), Andrew Pace (cornerback), Herdley Harrison (defensive end) and Dustin Dunning (tight end).
The guide is dedicated to Kwane Doster, the tailback from Tampa who was tragically murdered in the off-season. 2005 would have been Doster's senior season.
Media Guides can be purchased by fans next week at the McGugin Ticket Office (call 615 322-GOLD).
Coming next week: a series of exclusive reports, interviews and photos from SEC Media Days 2005.