Cutler for Heisman? Don't laugh, it could happen

Suddenly, the suggestion that Jay Cutler might be worthy of a postseason award like the Heisman Trophy is not as far-fetched as it once seemed.

Back in July, Jay Cutler's selection by the SEC coaches as the preseason All-conference quarterback raised a few eyebrows. Sure, thought many, Cutler is a great talent, but typically only quarterbacks surrounded by great teams receive such preseason honors.

Perhaps some wildly optimistic Vanderbilt fans, having watched Cutler work his magic the last three years, might have suggested that Cutler should receive consideration as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Again however, because the Heisman typically goes to a player who has not only demonstrated superior ability but also lifted his team to a winning record and/or a championship, such a suggestion would probably been met by guffaws.

Now, flash forward two weeks into the season. The surprising Commodores are 2-and-0.

Cutler has done nothing to hurt his reputation as the conference's top quarterback-- on the contrary, he has done all the things that great quarterbacks do. Suddenly, such a suggestion is no longer so far-fetched.

In both Vandy wins, with the game's outcome hanging in the balance, the Commodore signal-caller has engineered scoring drives for come-from-behind victories. Through two games he is throwing for a 277-yard average, completing 59 percent of his passes, and rushing for another 44 yards per game.

Suddenly, media outlets around the country are casually mentioning his name. Even to be honored by the Downtown Athletic Club as one of the five final invitees would be an incredible, unprecedented honor for a player from Vanderbilt. But is it realistic to think that could happen?

For a player to receive serious consideration for the Heisman in the digital age, two things probably have to happen: (1) Vanderbilt has to continue to win, and (2) coming from a non-traditional football school, Cutler would need to receive considerable promotional support from Vandy's sports information department.

Though fans around the SEC are familiar with Cutler's abilities, many Heisman voters on the East and West Coasts still wouldn't recognize his name.

"We really haven't had any conversations about promoting Jay for something like the Heisman," said Vandy Sports Information Director Rod Williamson. "I remember back to 1987 when we promoted Eric Jones, and it was at the time kind of a novelty promotion."

In 2003-04, Vandy created a website to call attention to Matt Freije, who was in the mix for some postseason conference and national awards. According to Williamson, Vandy is not ready quite yet to pull out all the stops, with mass-mailings, websites, etc.-- but if Cutler's success continues, that could change.

"I think Jay took a giant step [in the Arkansas game] toward getting some national attention," Williamson said. "Sometimes your play will speak louder than some gimmicks.

"Certainly we have an apparatus where we can ramp some things up, but we'll have to evaluate that and really talk to the coaches and see what they want to do. I think that he's really taking a one-game-at-a-time kind of approach."

Playing in the Southeastern Conference certainly won't hurt Cutler. If Vanderbilt continues to win, appearances on national TV on CBS and ESPN could be in the offing.

As for Cutler himself, however, the senior says his attention is focused squarely on other things.

"I'm not really into that," he said, when asked specifically about the Heisman. "Sure, first-team All-SEC preseason was fun, Heisman Trophy's great... but what I'm into right now is winning games.

"I think that's what this team's into right now. I think that's why they elected me captain, because I don't care about that stuff.

"I just want to win games. If that stuff comes, it comes. But if it doesn't, that's fine."

Cutler is already the school's all-time leader in total offense, and is tied for the school record for touchdown passes. Greg Zolman's school record for passing yardage should fall in the next few weeks as well.

Vanderbilt has never had a Heisman Trophy winner.

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