Clutts' Long Journey Ends in Chicago

Tyler Clutts has been there and back chasing his dream of playing in the NFL. A veteran of multiple professional leagues, he has finally found a home as a member of the Chicago Bears.

Here's a trivia question that could earn you a free round at your favorite watering hole:

Which current Chicago Bears player has lined up for the AFL, the CLF, the UFL and the NFL, including stints with the Edmonton Eskimos, the Utah Blaze, the Sacramento Mountain Lions and the Cleveland Browns before signing with Chicago?

If your buddies know the answer is newly signed fullback Tyler Clutts, you might want to point out they have too much time on their hands.

Clutts – pronounced ‘klutz,' according to the Bears public relations department – is here at last, in the NFL and ready to wear a navy and orange jersey on Sunday.

"Oh man, this is incredible," Clutts said this afternono. "I've played football since I was four with this goal in mind. To reach it at this point in my life is amazing."

To say Clutts never gave up on his dream would be an understatement. He played quarterback for his high school team in Clovis, Ca., then played four years as a defensive end for Fresno State, racking up 23.5 career sacks.

Heading into the 2008 draft, Clutts had high hopes for a pro career but he also knew he was a long shot.

FB Tyler Clutts
Diamond Images/Getty

"I felt that I was what I'd term an ‘in-between' guy," Clutts said. "I'm 6-2 and around 250 [pounds], that isn't enormous for a defensive player in the NFL. Also, I felt that no matter how hard I worked in college, I might be seen as a step or two slower than the other candidates for the draft."

In an interview with the Fresno media shortly after he was passed over by the pro scouts, Clutts was philosophical.

"I think I've got a lot of football left in me and I'm not ready to give up," he said. "I definitely want to keep playing."

And play he did, first with the CFL's Edmonton Eskimos from 2008-2009.

"It was fun," Clutts said. "And the opportunity to play there definitely helped me mature on the field and hone my skills."

An offer to play in Europe came after Clutts was cut by the Eskimos but he declined, choosing instead to remain on this side of the Atlantic. When the Utah Blaze of the AFL expressed interest, Clutts suited back up and played there for six months.

"Finally, I was making what I felt was the big money. It was $40,000 a year," he said. "Arena ball was a transition for me. It was different from the game I was used to. That fast, smaller indoor field definitely took some adjustment time on my part. It did help my endurance as I was out there a lot of the time running from one end of the arena to the other."

"The Sacramento Mountain Lions (UFL) wanted me but they weren't happy about my playing arena ball. They felt there was too great a chance for injury so I stopped until the UFL season began."

>For someone who had always played football, he found the down time hard to deal with.

"I'd had to sit out before, between time in the Eskimos organization and the stint in Arena league. I had a bunch of football friends in Fresno, including somebody you would know, Cameron Worrell, a former Bear. We'd work out together so I never was concerned about my conditioning.

"Mentally however it was so hard to be patient. I felt that this was my opportunity and the clock was ticking. I've never been happier than when I got back on the field."

Clutts built up enough good game film to attract the interest of the Cleveland Browns, who signed him to the practice squad in 2011.

"The NFL at last," he smiled. "I made it to the league I'd always wanted to play in, but unfortunately the Browns couldn't use me ultimately."

That's when the Bears came calling.

"My agent told me who was interested and I couldn't believe it. I packed my bags and headed to Chicago."

Since his arrival, he has been putting in late nights learning the playbook and working with the coaches.

"I'd be glad to stay as late as they want me to. The regular season is days away and I know there's a lot to learn."

Clutts might as well become accustomed to getting by on little or no sleep. His first child, a girl, is due in November.

Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.

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