Updating Commodores in the NFL

Aug. 7, 2017

Former Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler created national headlines Sunday when he decided to return to the National Football League as a member of the Miami Dolphins.

With Cutler announcing he would reunite with former Chicago offensive coordinator and current Miami head coach Adam Gase in South Beach, 16 former Commodores are now actively competing for NFL roster spots.

Cutler wasn't the only Commodore making recent NFL news. Last week, former Vanderbilt center Barrett Gouger signed a rookie free agent contract with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Here's a brief update on the former Commodores in the NFL.

Adam Butler (2013-16)
DL, New England Patriots
Signed a rookie free agent deal with the defending Super Bowl champions in April 2017. Butler is trying to secure a roster spot at New England as either a tackle or end.

Zach Cunningham (2013-16)
LB, Houston Texans
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 features Hal, returning linebacker starters Benardrick McKinney and Brian Cushing, All-Pro tackle J.J. Watt, and end Jadeveon Clowney.

Jay Cutler (2002-05)
QB, Miami Dolphins
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 during a press conference Monday, Aug. 7. Cutler, named to the Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015, has thrown for 32,467 yards and 208 touchdowns during an 11-year career with Denver and Chicago. 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.

Andrew East (2010-14)
LS, Oakland Raiders
Following a redshirt season in 2010, East went on to handle all of the Commodores' snapping duties for four straight seasons. He finished as a two-time Academic All-SEC honoree and also garnered SEC Good Works Team recognition. East became a finalist for the Wuerffel Trophy, which honors superior combination of athletics, academics and commercial service. He also landed on the prestigious 11-member Allstate-American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) national FBS Good Works Team.

Barrett Gouger (2013-16)
OL, Los Angeles Chargers
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. He joins a Los Angeles position group that includes former Commodore teammate Spencer Pulley.

Andre Hal (2010-13)
Safety, Houston Texans
Hal enters his fourth season tabbed as the Texans' likely starting free safety. 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 11 starts at free safety last year, and has 22 career starting assignments. Former Vanderbilt All-America Zach Cunningham joins Hal on the Houston roster.

Casey Hayward (2008-11)
CB, Los Angeles Chargers
Hayward enters the 2017 season considered 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. Former Commodore offensive linemen Spencer Pulley and Barrett Gouger join Hayward on the Charger roster.

Will Holden (2013-16)
OL, Arizona Cardinals
Selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Holden looks to secure a spot on Arizona's active roster with an impressive preseason showing. He got off to a good start last week while earning a start on the offensive line against Dallas in the Hall of Fame Game.

Andrew Jelks (2013-16)
OL, New England Patriots
Absent from the Vanderbilt lineup for the last two years due to leg injuries, Jelks earned the attention of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick at Vanderbilt Pro Day in March. A month later, Belichick and the defending Super Bowl champs added Jelks as an undrafted free agent. He joins fellow Commodore undrafted rookie free agent Adam Butler on the Patriot roster.

Wesley Johnson (2010-13)
OL, New York Jets
Johnson enters his fourth professional season with a starting job at stake. Johnson looks to earn the Jets' starting center role that has been held by Nick Mangold 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.

Jonathan Krause (2010-13)
WR, Tennessee Titans
Krause has 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.

Jordan Matthews (2010-13)
WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Matthews enters his fourth season as a likely starter with the Eagles. 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. Matthews has posted impressive numbers through his first three seasons in Philly: 225 receptions, 2,673 receiving yards and 19 touchdown catches.

Spencer Pulley (2011-15)
OL, Los Angeles Chargers
Entering his second professional season, Pulley is competing for the starting job as Philip Rivers' center in Los Angeles. In the Chargers' first preseason practice against an opposing team, Pulley was in the starting line rotation. 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. Two other former Commodores, cornerback Casey Hayward and center-guard Barrett Gouger, join Pulley on the Charger preseason roster.

Steven Scheu (2011-15)
TE, Denver Broncos
Scheu looks to make the Broncos active roster this preseason after signing a rookie free agent deal with the team during the 2016 season. Originally signed as a rookie by New England, Scheu is trying to break into a tight end rotation that is featured by the Bronco coaching staff.

Stephen Weatherly (2012-15)
DE, Minnesota Vikings
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 was promoted to Minnesota's active roster late in his rookie season, finishing the year with a couple of tackles in appearances. Weatherly has worked hard to transition from an outside linebacker at Vanderbilt, and currently sits at the top reserve to Viking right end starter Everson Griffen.

Andrew Williamson (2012-15)
Safety, Indianapolis Colts
Signed as an undrafted free agent in May 2016, Williamson is working to make the Colts active roster in his second professional season. Williamson's rookie campaign ended prematurely due to injury.

Photo credits: Jay Cutler (Miami Dolphins), Casey Hayward (Associated Press)



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