Cutts Trains With Patriots
KEENE, N.H., 10/17/07 - Matt Cutts, a nontraditional student at Keene State College, took his time and did some research before deciding on his major.
Initially considering physical education and teaching, Matt eventually decided on athletic training. "I never knew there was an athletic training major at Keene," said the Windsor, Vt., native. "But once I started taking classes, I knew I had found my calling."
Working with Keene State lacrosse and softball teams as a student athletic trainer reinforced his decision. Although Cutts enjoyed working with Owl athletes, the 25 year old set his sights even higher. "As soon as I got involved with athletic training, I knew I wanted to work at the highest and most intense job in the field," he said. "And to me that meant the NFL."
To get his foot in the door, Cutts looked into internship programs.
With the help of Nancy Bleam, a member of KSC's athletic training staff, Cutts sent out inquiries to all 32 teams in the National Football League last fall.
Surprisingly, his first call back came from his hometown team, the New England Patriots. Jim Whalen, the Pats' head trainer, told him they were interested and asked him to forward his résumé and references.
Vacationing in Florida during spring break week, Cutts got the call he was waiting for. Dave Granito, the Patriots' assistant athletic trainer, called and told him that after receiving a glowing recommendation from KSC head athletic trainer Bob Merrow, he'd been accepted into the team's internship program.
"He tried to dissuade me a bit by telling me that it wasn't as glorified as it sounds and about the long hours," Cutts said.
But to Cutts it didn't matter. "He could have told me the worst, and I would have taken it with a smile," he said. "I was on cloud nine after the call."
Reporting to the Pats' Foxborough camp in mid-July, Cutts joined a group of interns that hailed from several Division I schools from all over the country.
There is no down time. Cutts said a typical training-camp day for the interns goes from 6 in the morning to 10:30 at night. In between, their day is full of stretching messaging, taping, and dispensing water and Gatorade to a squad of 110 players. "You're at their beckon call," Cutts said. "Whatever they need, you get for them."
As far as dealing with the athletes, Cutts said about 95% of the Patriot players are great guys. "They sometimes don't stop and say, 'how are you doing,' but that's fine. They're paid for winning football games," he said. "Even though the players might not say a word to you during camp, they come and shake your hand and say nice job when it's over."
Cutts did develop a good relationship with several of the players, including veteran tight end Kyle Brady. "Brady is a gentle giant," said Cutts. "He's soft-spoken and intelligent. He was curious where you were from and what you're all about."
Halfway through camp, Mel Mitchell, a special team player, took the entire athletic training staff out to dinner. "He told us, 'you have to take care of the guys that take care of you,'" Cutts said.
Cutts won't soon forget his first "meeting" with Coach Bill Belichick. A stickler for detail, Belichick's long list of rules includes no water during stretching. Unfortunately, no one told Cutts. When the eager intern ventured out on the field to wet the whistle of a few prankster players, he was quickly put in his place by the Patriots' coach. "Belichick gave me a few well-chosen words about getting off the field," Cutts said. "It was my initiation into the NFL."
The job might not pay well, but there are perks. Cutts got to travel with the team to a preseason game in Tampa. "The Patriots treat you right," Cutts said. "The pay isn't great, but you're there for the experience, and I would've done it for free. I wish I could've stayed the whole season."
A job well done, Cutts was invited back to work the home opener against the San Diego Chargers. He said there's a big difference when they start playing for real. "It's all business. They go full out from whistle to whistle."
Limited to observing, Cutts absorbed as much as he could. "Trainers have about 30 seconds to determine the severity of injury and whether a doctor is needed. The players are worth so much money. You can't take chances."
Whalen gave Matt high marks for his work with the team. "Matt was an outstanding athletic training intern," Whalen said. "He was extremely knowledgeable and very well prepared for his experience. Matt has all the qualities to become an outstanding athletic trainer."
Back at Keene State this fall, Cutts is putting his professional experience to good use by helping other students in the athletic training program. "It's interesting to see Matt come back here," said Merrow. "His initiative and desire to succeed rub off on everybody. Matt realizes what he wants to do and is going after it."
A junior in the program, Matt has a few more semesters to complete his degree before moving on to graduate school. It might take some time, but Cutts has no intention of giving up his dream to someday work in the NFL.
"I'm taking it on with a full head of steam," Cutts said. "It's a lot of time and effort, but after working with the Patriots, this is a piece of cake. "I'm going to work in the NFL. I know I'm going to get back there."