Out of Office with Lindsey Nance: Jay Cutler Opens Up About the Physical and Mental Transition from SEC to NFL

by Chris Haney

For the debut episode of Out of Office with Lindsey Nance, we kept things close to home with Outsider co-founder and former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler. Nance recently stopped by Cutler’s home and spent time with him as she gave viewers an inside look into Jay’s life as they discussed his football career and various ventures since he retired from the league.

While sipping coffee in Jay’s kitchen, Nance spoke to Cutler about his high school career and the transition to college where he started four years at Vanderbilt University. As the interview continued, they moved to Cutler’s porch and continued their conversation in a pair of rocking chairs. Coming from a small town in Indiana, Nashville was a large city even in the early 2000s. But Cutler seemed to adjust well to both Nashville and Vandy.

“Well Nashville was a lot smaller then. And Vanderbilt was small too, it was only like 6,000 undergrads there. The transition wasn’t that bad,” Jay Cutler shared on Out of Office. “I think that first redshirt year, I was able to play on the scout team and kinda travel and go to school and do all that stuff. It made the transition a lot easier. Playing as a freshman straight out of high school probably would’ve been a little bit tougher.”

Then, Nance jumped into the QB’s transition from college to the NFL. Most people assume it’s a giant leap from college to the pros, and it is. Everyone is playing at an elite level, and every player is faster, stronger, and more talented across the board. However, playing in college football’s best conference in the SEC and playing against tons of future NFL pros gave Cutler an edge that not every player coming out of college had.

“I thought going to the NFL was a little bit easier than going from high school to college. Just because playing in the SEC, I think it’s so fast, and everyone’s good,” Cutler said before talking about his early years in the NFL.

Jay Cutler Explains Why the Mental Transition To the NFL Was Tougher Than the Physical

Coming out of Vanderbilt, the Denver Broncos selected Jay Cutler in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Luckily for him, he went to a team with an offensive-minded scheme because of Super Bowl-winning head coach Mike Shanahan. So it made playing the game he loved easier during his early years in the league.

“When I got to Denver, Mike Shanahan was there who is amazing. And the system we were running, he’s an offensive genius,” Jay Cutler said to Lindsey Nance on Out of Office. “And I looked around, I was like, well, my guys on my side are better too. Defense is obviously bigger and faster, but your guys are better and faster and smarter and stronger too. That wasn’t that big of a deal.”

Yet while the physical side of playing in the NFL came easy for Cutler, there were still some mental challenges. Not only are kids coming out of college transitioning to the pros dealing with a higher level of competition, but they’re also navigating life as they transition into the real world as adults.

“I think that mentally it was harder than physically,” Cutler continued. “Physically you’re just throwing a football and doing the things. But mentally the system’s bigger, you’ve got more responsibility, and you’re an adult. You’re living by yourself, you have your own money, you’re trying to figure out life as a 22 or 23 year old. It goes from being fun in college and you’re hanging out with the guys and going to school, you’re in a dorm, to an actual job job. And it’s a business. That’s the part you’ve gotta grasp pretty quickly.”

Make sure to check out Lindsey Nance’s full interview with Outsider’s very own Jay Cutler in the YouTube video above. Also, stay tuned for more episodes with some of Nashville’s biggest celebrities, musicians, and pro athletes coming your way soon on Out of Office with Lindsey Nance.