COMMODORES IN THE NFL
Note: This information on Vanderbilt players on current National Football League rosters was updated at the 2017 regular season finale.
Adam Butler (2013-16) // New England // NFL Bio // Butler made the Patriots' 53-man opening day roster after signing as an undrafted rookie free agent with the defending Super Bowl champions last May. Butler is playing both tackle and end with New England.
Week 17 (Dec. 31): Butler continued to earn important minutes at defensive tackle as the Patriots earned a 27-24 come-from-behind road victory over Pittsburgh Sunday night in Heinz Field. The rookie lineman has contributed 19 total tackles, including a pair of quarterback sacks for the Patriots, who clinched the AFC East title with the win.
Ahead in the Playoffs: If the 13-3 Patriots advance to the Super Bowl, they will do so by never leaving the friendly setting of Gillette Stadium. New England is idle during the first round of playoff games and could face either Kansas City, Tennessee or Buffalo on Saturday, Jan. 13. Kickoff will be 7:15 p.m. CT.
Season Summary: Butler was one of the biggest surprises for the Patriots. Signed as a rookie free agent, Butler played in every game and earned six starts at defensive tackle. Butler finished the regular season with 19 total tackles and two quarterback sacks.
Zach Cunningham (2013-16) // Houston // NFL Bio // The 57th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft, Cunningham has impressed since he arrived in Houston. A consensus First Team All-America inside linebacker for the Commodores in 2016, Cunningham has received high marks from Texan coaches with his abilities to play the rush and defend the pass. Cunningham joins a Houston defense that includes former Commodore defensive back Andre Hal.
Week 17 (Dec. 31): Cunningham capped the season with a team-leading 12 tackles, including one resulting in a loss, as the depleted 4-12 Texans dropped a 22-13 road decision to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Season Summary: Cunningham was one of the NFL's top rookie performers. The linebacker finished the year second on the team with 90 total tackles, including back-to-back double-digit efforts in the Texans' final two games. He also posted 1.5 quarterback sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Jay Cutler (2002-05) // Miami // NFL Bio // Retirement didn't last long for the veteran Cutler, who has decided to continue his career with former Bears mentor Adam Gase in South Beach. Gase confirmed Cutler's return to the NFL in early August. He suffered a season-ending arm injury midway through the 2007 season, and announced intentions in May to join FOX Sports as a NFL color analyst. A leg injury to Dolphin QB Ryan Tannehill opened a path for Cutler's return to the game.
Week 17 (Dec. 31): Cutler played sparingly in the season finale against Buffalo, completing one of two passes in a 22-16 loss to the Bills at Hard Rock Stadium.
Season Summary: Cutler, named to the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015, finished his 11th year completing 266 of 429 passes for 2,666 yards and 19 touchdowns. For his career, Cutler has 3,048 completions, good for 35,133 passing yards and 227 touchdowns.
Andre Hal (2010-13) // Houston // NFL Bio // Hal, the Texans' starting free safety, signed a new three-year deal in August in advance of his fourth season with the club. Hal is coming off his finest year, helping Houston advance to the second round of the AFC playoffs by registering 60 total tackles, three interceptions and 10 passes defended. In his final appearance last year, Hal registered six total tackles, an interception and two defensed passes in Houston's playoff loss to the Patriots. The former Commodore cornerback also earned starts at free safety last year, and has 22 career starting assignments.
Week 17 (Dec. 31): Hal contributed four tackles, including one for a loss, as 4-12 Houston suffered a 22-13 road loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Season Summary: Hal enjoyed his finest professional season as a 16-game starter at safety. He topped the Texans with three interceptions and contributed 71 total tackles, the fourth highest total on the team. Through four years, Hal has amassed 176 tackles, nine interceptions and 26 defensed passes.
Casey Hayward (2008-11) // L.A. Chargers // NFL Bio // Hayward enters his sixth season regarded as one of the NFL's elite cornerbacks. In 2016, Hayward enjoyed his finest season, earning his initial Pro Bowl recognition after leading the league with seven interceptions. He also ranked second in the league with 21 pass deflections, and finished the 2016 regular season with 35 solo tackles. He joins former Commodore offensive lineman Spencer Pulley on the Charger roster.
Week 17 (Dec. 31): Hayward continued his outstanding play at cornerback in the regular season finale, posting a pair of defensed passes in Los Angeles' 30-10 home victory over Oakland. The win capped the Chargers a 9-3 finish to a 9-7 season.
Season Summary: Hayward earned Pro Bowl recognition for the second straight year, finishing the season with four interceptions and an AFC-leading 26 defensed passes. He also finished with 58 tackles and limited many of the league's top receivers to subpar performances. For his career, Hayward has produced 20 interceptions, 77 defensed passes and 266 tackles in six years.
Will Holden (2013-16) // Arizona // NFL Bio // Selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Holden earned a spot of Arizona's 53-man opening day roster with a solid showing during the preseason. He has the versatility to play either tackle or guard for the Cardinals.
Week 17 (Dec. 31): Holden started at left tackle as the Cardinals finished the year with a 26-24 road victory over Seattle in CenturyLink Field. Holden and the Arizona line allowed just one quarterback sack during the game.
Season Summary: Holden had a solid rookie season for the Cardinals, including earning five starting assignments at left tackle. He appeared in seven games during the regular season.
Andrew Jelks (2013-16) // New England // NFL Bio // Jelks was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list Sept. 2 by the Patriots. New England coach Bill Belichick was impressed by Jelks at Vanderbilt Pro Day in March, then added Jelks as an undrafted free agent in May. Though he missed the last two seasons at Vanderbilt due to injury, Jelks joins fellow Commodore undrafted rookie free agent Adam Butler with the Patriots.
Roster Status: After a three-week span where he was eligible to be activated to New England's roster, Jelks was returned to the reserve/non-football injury list by the Patriots on Dec. 1, effectively ending the possibility of getting game action as a rookie. He will remain with the Patriots.
Ahead in the Playoffs: Though Jelks will not be in uniform, the 13-3 Patriots will face either Kansas City, Tennessee or Buffalo on Saturday, Jan. 13. Kickoff will be 7:15 p.m. CT, in Gillette Stadium.
Wesley Johnson (2010-13) // New York Jets // NFL Bio // Johnson enters his fourth professional season as the Jets' starting center, a role that Nick Mangold has served for the last decade. Johnson is coming off a 2016 campaign when he filled in admirably for an injured Mangold, starting eight of the final nine games for the Jets.
Week 17 (Dec. 31): Johnson started at center for New York as the 5-11 Jets dropped a 26-6 road decision to the New England Patriots. The Jets offense was missing their starting quarterback in the season finale.
Season Summary: Johnson enjoyed his finest professional year. He ended the season starting every game at center on the Jets offensive front.
Jordan Matthews (2010-13) // Buffalo // NFL Bio // Matthews enters his fourth season in the NFL. On Aug. 11, 2017, Matthews was traded from Philadelphia to the Buffalo Bills. Matthews has missed three weeks this preseason with an injury, but is expected to start in the season opener vs. New York. The Commodores' all-time leading receiver is coming off a campaign when he ranked second on the Eagles with 73 receptions and 804 receiving yards.
Ahead in the Playoffs: The Bills are in the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. They will face the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday, Jan. 7. Kickoff in EverBank Field is 12:05 p.m. CT.
Season Summary: Matthews was placed on injured reserve Dec. 5, effectively ending his season, due to a continuing leg injury. Matthews finished the year with 25 receptions for 282 yards and a touchdown. For his NFL career, Matthews has amassed 250 receptions, good for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Spencer Pulley (2011-15) // L.A. Chargers // NFL Bio // Entering his second professional season, Pulley looks to be the opening day starter as Philip Rivers' center in Los Angeles. Pulley has enjoyed a quick rise since signing with the Chargers as an undrafted rookie free agent in May 2016. As a rookie, Pulley saw action in all 16 games for San Diego, contributing on both special teams and the offensive line. He joins former Commodore cornerback Casey Hayward on the Charger roster.
Week 17 (Dec. 31): Pulley started at center for Los Angeles, helping the Chargers finish on a high note with a 30-10 home win over Oakland at StubHub Center. The Charger offense produced 503 total yards and allowed just a lone sack of quarterback Philip Rivers who threw for 387 yards and three touchdowns.
Season Summary: Pulley enjoyed his finest professional season in his second year with the Chargers. After moving from guard in the preseason, Pulley eventually started all 16 games at center. Pulley and the Charger O-line were superb, leading the league with just 18 sacks. The Charger offense topped the NFL with 4,431 passing yards.
Stephen Weatherly (2012-15) // Minnesota // NFL Bio // Weatherly enters his second season in Minneapolis aiming for an important role on the Vikings' defensive front. Selected in the 7th round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Weatherly finished last year on Minnesota's active roster, garnering a couple of tackles in late-season appearances. Weatherly has worked hard to transition from an outside linebacker at Vanderbilt, and currently sits at the top reserve to Viking standout end Everson Griffen.
Week 17 (Dec. 31): Weatherly did not register a tackle playing on special team coverage units as the NFC North champion Vikings moved to 12-3 and sealed a home game in the playoffs with a 23-10 victory over Chicago in U.S. Bank Stadium.
Ahead in the Playoffs: The second-seeded Vikings have a chance to become the first team in NFL history to participate in a Super Bowl played in their hometown stadium. Minnesota will start their playoff pursuit by playing either the Los Angeles Ram, New Orleans or Carolina on Sunday, Jan. 14. Kickoff in U.S. Bank Stadium is 3:30 p.m. CT.
Season Summary: Weatherly finished the regular season with seven solo tackles, most coming on special teams.
In other NFL news from earlier in the season regarding Commodores:
Andrew East (2011-14) // Oakland Raiders // East was released by Oakland Sept. 2. He was in camp with the Raiders vying for the team's coveted snapping role on punts and conversions. Originally signed out of Vanderbilt by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2015, East also competed for the same responsibilities with the Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams.
Barrett Gouger (2013-16) // L.A. Chargers // Gouger was released by Chargers Sept. 2. He signed a rookie free agent deal with the Chargers on Aug. 4, one day after a tryout with the team. Gouger will attempt to earn a role with the Chargers at either center or guard.
Jonathan Krause (2010-13) // Tennessee // Krause was released by Titans Sept. 2. He impressed Tennessee teammates and coaches this preseason with his receiving abilities and desire as he works to secure a spot on the team's active roster. The wide receiver enters his second year with the Titan organization - and fourth year overall in the NFL. Krause earned a Super Bowl ring as a practice squad player for the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
Darrius Sims (2013-16) // Tennessee // Sims was released by Titans Sept. 2. He was signed as a rookie free agent Aug. 17 by the Titans. A versatile player who saw action as a defensive back, receiver, running back and kick returner for the Commodores is getting repetitions at cornerback for the Titans. He was originally signed by Tennessee as an undrafted free agent in May.
Steven Scheu (2011-15) // Denver // Scheu was released by the Broncos Sept. 2. Scheu was looking to make the Broncos active roster after signing a rookie free agent deal with the team during the 2016 season. Originally signed as a rookie by New England last year.
Andrew Williamson (2012-15) // Indianapolis // Williamson was released by the Colts Sept. 6 after being added to team's practice squad on Sept. 3. Williamson was originally signed by the Colta as an undrafted free agent in 2016 but missed much the season due to injury.
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