Green Bay Packers 2017 Draft: Q&A with Middle Tennessee State CB Jeremy Cutrer
Jeremy Cutrer: In his own words
Q: You’ve come a long way as a survivor of Hurricane Katrina in your early youth to where you stand today. Can you describe that long hard road you took?
A: Growing up in New Orleans was really, really tough. Growing up in the hood in the 7th Ward area, I’ve seen people getting killed, drug trafficking and you really have to block yourself off from all the violent and negative things around you. It was all about grindin’…grindin’ out on sports and football. And, you know, football is a big factor in my life and it has always kept me into sports and kept me out of trouble. Being in the hood, in the 7th Ward, I carried my mentality out on the field with how I played with violence and how I played with that aggressiveness in me and getting my family out from that environment. Not saying I don’t love my city. I love my city and I love my environment. I love where I’m from and the area, but I don’t want my family [there] or my little brothers to grow up in that environment—the same place I grew up in. So, I just went hard every day. I practiced just like I played in the game. Every day I went hard to make things better for my family. Katrina was crazy also. [Being] 11 years old and not seeing any food or water…we had to evacuate the house with the water being about two or three feet up. So, we had to get onto the bridge. It was great that the exit dropped right behind our house, so we didn’t have to walk that far in the water. But as we got onto the bridge, there were people everywhere with no food or water for three days…hot sun every day…all day. You just hoped you weren’t going to die. But with me being a little kid, I wasn’t thinking of dying or anything like that. But as I started seeing my mom and hearing her cry at night, it then started to hit me. I’m just at a loss for words right now just talking about it.
Q: So, where did you all go from there?
A: We relocated to Kentwood, LA. where my grandmother was from. I spent a part of my life down in that area. I went to Jewel Sumner High School and was committed to LSU. I was a grade shy from going there, so I went to Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College and when I graduated from there, I went back to LSU. Somehow my online class [credits] weren’t accepted. I was at a point where I either would have to sit out a year or just wait…but I was just so ready to play and just ready to get out of Louisiana to be honest with you. So, I really made my biggest move. The hardest move of my life was leaving LSU, which was always something I wanted to do—it was my dream. It was the hardest of all the choices I made in life, but it was one of the best choices. I graduated from Middle Tennessee State and got my bachelor’s degree. And now I’m training for the NFL Draft.
Q: Did you have any reservations about going to one of the great football programs like LSU that was loaded with talent in the defensive backfield?
A: I love the competition. If I don’t have competition…I mean, I got to have competition every day, all day. I love it.
Q: You were a safety in high school. A safety that hit like a linebacker. How did you make that transition to cornerback?
A: You can put me anywhere…dline, nose guard—I’m going to learn that position. You put me anywhere on the field. Just tell me what to do and teach me what I have to do and I can do it. But my cornerback coach (and former NFL safety) Stevon Moore at Mississippi Gulf State saw it in me. He said, “I love you at safety. You can hit and you can tackle, but cornerback is your position because there aren’t many cornerbacks that will come up and tackle.” He told me I could cover, flip my hips and also come up and tackle. He told me that would be something new for a corner that would open up a lot of people’s eyes. I felt like I could trust that process and we went from there.
Q: So, how many positions did you play at the JUCO level?
A: My first year there, I played wide receiver too.
Q: And what was it like playing at an out-of-the-way community college when you knew you could have been in the SEC?
A: I just really had to humble myself and go to practice every day and try not to be like I was better than everyone else. It was a big adjustment because going to JUCO, there were a lot players that weren’t very good. But, it was only a 55-man roster and it was hard to make that roster. But there are some good players at JUCO; don’t get me wrong. Some people say, “JUCO ain’t this and JUCO ain’t that.” JUCO made me who I am. I was competing every day at JUCO to be honest. You had some great players that didn’t have the grades and didn’t have the support to get into a bigger school. But I really had to humble myself and go with the flow and my coaches used to tell me every day, “Come on, man. I need you. You got this. You can do it with me; just stick it out with me.” I just got used to the environment and I started loving it and loving them like my family. I built a bond with my brothers and everybody on my team like D’haquille Williams, Justin Evans, Tony Bridges…all those…Jason Smith, Maurice Swain…all those kids that are in the ACC or SEC. We all built a brotherhood and I really enjoyed my family. Everybody loved each other. So, I really felt like I was at home.
Q: I spoke with Chad Williams from Grambling State not too long ago and he told me about how some of the skill-position athletes are just as good at the Division 1AA or Division II levels as they are in the bigger schools.
A: Like I said, there’s talent all over…not just the ACC. We have a receiver (at MTS) Richie James; he got over 1,000 something yards as a freshman. This [past] year, the quarterback went down and he took over. There’s talent all over the world. Talent isn’t only found in the SEC. Everybody is talented all over. Everybody can go anywhere and shine and get the spotlight.
Q: How did you choose Middle Tennessee State when you finally moved on from LSU? What about the school really enticed you?
A: I really wanted to go to other schools, but to be honest, I sat out for about six or seven months before I chose to go to another school. When I found out I wouldn’t go to LSU, I was so hurt, man. It hurt me so bad that I just wanted to give up football. I lost myself. I didn’t know who I was. I was out and about in the streets just lost. You know, a lot of people were reaching out to me like, “Come on, man. You need to be playing ball, man. There’s too much talent to waste.” I was like, “ Yeah, yeah. I will play…I will play.” But my godfather, he’s my god dad now, Marlon Moore took me under his wing. He brought me to Baton Rouge and got me to train there. Then I went back home to New Orleans and I disappeared for a couple of days. But it got the point where he sat me down and asked me, “Is this what you really want in life? Do you want to live in this environment in New Orleans where all this killing is going on each day and every day or do you really want to make something happen for your family and make people happy on Sundays and Saturdays and have big fans?” I can’t thank Marlon enough. I would never bite the hand that feeds me. He helped me out so much. I don’t know what I’d do; I would do anything for him, man. He got me on my feet. He called coaches and schools to see who would take me. It’s crazy how the Lord works because Steve Ellis, my cornerbacks coach, at Middle Tennessee…he came to see some players at JUCO practice one time. My coach told me he had someone I needed to talk to. Me going to LSU and seeing what shirt he had on from Middle Tennessee State, I was like, “ Man, I don’t want to talk to this coach. Man, that’s not me. I’m good.” But he talked to me for about five minutes with stuff going in one ear and out the other. He was telling me I had great talent. He told me, “I know you’re committed to LSU, but if you ever need a home or a place to stay, call me and I’ll gladly take you to Middle Tennessee.” I told him that would be cool and thanked him for talking to me and that was it; we never had any words after that. But it’s crazy how the Lord works. I had to reach out to him at Middle Tennessee (after parting ways with LSU) and he got me into school some kind of way. He got me enrolled in school. I went to Middle Tennessee without training; I didn’t do anything the whole offseason. I did nothing at all for six or seven months. I went to camp and practice and coach Ellis told me, “Ain’t nothing gonna be handed to your ass now. You got to come out here and compete to take a spot.” But that’s what I needed…that’s what I love. Then the minute I got out there, everybody was looking at me like like, “Man, who’s this kid?” I went down to like 158, 159 pounds. I was small. Kevin Byard told me, “I heard you were a good player. I want to see you in pads.” Then I just went out there and just started ballin’ every day at practice. Diving, catching picks, catching one-handed interceptions and before you know it, I was starting. I thank Marlon Moore, I thank coach (Corey) Raymond from LSU. I thank coach Ellis from Middle Tennessee. Coach Raymond never turned his back on me. He was always there when I needed him.
Q: In addition to being extremely physical, you also exhibit great awareness. What are your best assets as a player?
A: It’s crazy because you would have to come up with words to describe me like it’s words that that don’t even make sense and you’d be like, “That’s that kid! It don’t make sense how great that kid is.” I’m a great player. I’m a violent player and there’s only one way I know how to hit and there was only one way I was taught to tackle—with violence. I also have great awareness. If you really want to describe me, I’m really an underground savage. That’s my new name. “Underground savage” describes so much about me.
Q: I saw you primarily line up as an outside defender on the left side. Can you explain your versatility in the defensive backfield?
A: The reason they had me on the left is because they always wanted me on the boundary side. Toward the end of the season…the last six or seven games…they wanted me to start checking the [opponent’s] best receiver. But, I love to play press man; I would play press man the whole game. I can play off-man and I’m not afraid to play off-man. There’s an awful lot of cornerbacks afraid to do that; there’s an awful lot of cornerbacks afraid to line up in the slot. I would love to play the slot. I would tell my coaches, “Let me take the slot receiver today” and I would go one-on-one. I want to do everything. I even want to play safety. That’s my [real] position and that’s what I love. Safety is what I do. If I get up to 195, there’s no doubt that I would love to go to safety. No doubt.
Q: What’s your current weight?
A: 175, 176. Maybe 180 on a good day.
Q: Your instincts in coverage are very impressive. I saw how you would bait the quarterback to throw a bad pass. What type of prep work goes into studying the opponent?
A: Yeah, I’m glad you noticed that. I love to bait the quarterback. That’s one of the key things I love to do. I will sit there and watch film all day and I’ll count his 3-step drop and how quickly he throws the ball. I look at who’s his best receiver and what passes he likes to throw best and what he likes to do on first, second and third down. If you study game film a lot, every day, man, you will really start trusting your instincts. You could gamble more. You could do everything a lot more and I love to bait quarterbacks and receivers because of my length. I got a wingspan of 77 inches; that’s the wingspan of a 7-foot man. I love letting receivers think, “I’m open. Please throw it.” And then I’ll just come in and jump a hitch. That’s what I love to do.
Q: How do you think you stack in this year’s deep cornerback class?
A: You know, there’s a lot of great corners coming out in the draft. I wish I could play in the SEC for four years in college like Tre’Davious White. I get a lot of tips from Tre’. He is one of the best cornerbacks I’ve ever seen. He and I are good friends. I just wish I had a chance to play with him. Me, him and Jamal (Adams)…that would have just been crazy. But the way I stand out is that there’s not a lot of corners that can flip on that light switch and are ready at practice with the way I go hard all day, every day in practice. I just love the game.
Q: How did you feel about being a combine snub?
A: I mean, you know, I felt kind of bad. Things happen for a reason, but I’ve always been the underdog. I’m the underground savage, so I got to make the people know I’ve been like that all my life. So, it was really nothing to me. I just sucked it up and kept going on. So, that’s how I feel about it. I’m going to shock a lot of people. Just pick me. Just let me get picked. Let me get in the league and I can show them better than I can tell’em.
Q: Can you talk about your pro day experience? I believe you ran somewhere in the 4.4s.
A: It was a 4.48. But I promise you I’m faster than that. I ran a 4.47 at EXOS on laser and a 4.39 on hand time. My pro day was kind of a bad day. I broad jumped a 10’ 2”and my vertical was 32 inches. I can get up to 36 or 37 (inches). My broad (jump)? I know I can get to 10’ 6”. It just wasn’t my day.
Q: What was one overriding concern among NFL reps at pro day? What were they constantly asking you?
A: My weight. But it wasn’t really a concern because they know I will put on more weight. They just loved everything about me to be honest.
Q: I know the Giants have been keeping tabs on you. What are teams have reached out to you?
A: The Tennessee Titans, New England, New Orleans…there’s a couple of other teams. I have to talk to my agent.
Q: What about the Packers?
A: Yeah, them too. A lot of them have been reaching out to me lately.
Q: Can you touch on your leadership traits?
A: As a teammate, I’m one of the finest kids on the team. Everybody loves Jeremy Cutrer. He’s smiling every day. I’m a people person. I love everybody on the team. I love to be a leader. I would love for everybody to count on me when things go wrong. If you ask anybody at Mississippi Gulf Coast what type of player I was, they would tell you, “I love that kid.” I’m a great kid to everybody. I treat everybody like my brothers no matter what color…white, black, Mexican—we’re all brothers.
Q: You played with Kevin Byard, who had a superb rookie season with the Titans. Was he someone you constantly kept in touch with during your last year at Middle Tennessee State?
A: After pro day, me and him hung out and got something to eat. We talked about everything. He would just tell me to keep my head on right, not to lose focus and to keep on grindin’. He told me not to let anything get to me. He said, “Just do what you do best.” He’s a great player and he’s a good man, great man, you know. He’s a good guy to look up to and I want to follow in his footsteps. He set a great path to follow.
Q: Who are some of the pros you like to study?
A: To be honest, I wish there was a cornerback like Sean Taylor. I like to go back and watch his videos. He was one of the greatest. I wish I was old enough to watch him play from Miami all the way through the Redskins. I also like to watch Richard Sherman. He’s a great player and I love his attitude on the field. Patrick Peterson too. He’s a great person and a great player. Ty Mathieu and Landon Collins are tough players…and then Jamal Adams. I would love to watch and get tips from everybody because everybody’s a great player in the league no matter what.
Q: What kind of mindset do you need to be successful as a defensive back?
A: My mindset is: Don’t get beat…don’t get beat deep. It’s about playing with aggressiveness and getting inside the receiver’s head. I just love to smile and enjoy playing the game. You just got to go out there and play with that attitude. You see, me, I just love to bark to myself. I turn into something crazy. I don’t know what I turn into. I’m not myself when I’m out there.
Q: So, you’re a talker then?
A: Yeah, I have to have fun. I like to talk fun smack. If a player wants to get nitty gritty, that’s when we could get nitty gritty. With all my talking, I’m going to try to get into a receiver’s head. But I’m just talking sometimes and not trying to be that negative guy. But I won’t mind if somebody hates me. Hey, hate me, like me…I’m going to be the same player I am regardless.
Q: Ok Jeremy, here are some quick-hitting non-football questions. What is your favorite meal?
A: Gravy, beans and rice with fried chicken. But to be on the healthy side, I got to have baked chicken.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
A: I’ve watched so many movies and I love watching TV. My favorite movie is Remember the Titans to be honest.
Q: What is your dream getaway spot?
Q: Do you have a favorite pre-game ritual?
A: It’s tough because I just sit back and think about everything I went through. I sit down and think about mom and the house she’s in right now…it has three bedrooms. Me, my mom and my brothers used to sleep in the same room and, you know, I start to think about everything. I listen to song called The Way I Live, a New Orleans song. A song like that just gives me the chills. One thing I do before I go out there is look up at the sky and think about my brother who was killed in 2013. He was 25 years old. That’s the first thing I do when I go out on the field. I look up to the sky and I cross my heart; I kiss my hand and point to the sky and run around the field. That just amps me up so much because I know he’s watching.
Q: What are three or four words that best describe you, Jeremy Cutrer, as an individual, a player and a teammate?
A: Incredible, amazing and great leader.
Ralph: Jeremy, thanks for the fantastic interview. I wish you lots of luck and God bless.
Jeremy: Thank you very much also for this interview.