Broncos' Cutler helps college teammate on pro day
Jay Cutler tosses passes to Earl Bennett during Vanderbilt's pro day.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jay Cutler found himself battling a case of nerves Friday, standing in front of representatives of every NFL team.
Not for himself, the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos, but for his buddy and ex-college teammate, Earl Bennett.
Chris Graythen / Getty Images
Vanderbilt WR Earl Bennett had the benefit of catching passes from former teammate and current Broncos QB Jay Cutler during Vanderbilt's pro day Friday.
Cutler hadn't played with Bennett since Cutler's final season at Vanderbilt in 2005. But Cutler and Bennett share an agent in Bus Cook. So when the Southeastern Conference's all-time leading receiver decided to turn pro a year early, he called up Cutler for a little help prepping for the NFL Draft.
They put in nearly three weeks of training for Vanderbilt's Pro Day, and Cutler completed all 22 passes to Bennett to help wrap up the session including a nice shoestring catch by Bennett on a windy day.
"He was more relaxed than I was," Cutler said of Bennett after the workout. "I had a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to get some good balls to him. I threw a few bad ones. He made some catches for me, and it turned out really well I think."
It is very rare for a starting NFL quarterback to go back and help out an old college teammate. But Bennett was the best receiver Cutler ever had while at Vanderbilt, even though the quarterback was around only for Bennett's freshman season. Cutler is why Bennett caught 79 passes for 876 yards in 2005, a strong start to setting the SEC record with 236 receptions.
That is why Cutler was one of the first people Bennett called when he decided to turn pro.
"We talked about the situation me coming out. He said if I ever need him for anything, give him a call. I called him up and asked if he could throw to me at Pro Day," Bennett said.
Not just on Pro Day. Cutler and Bennett started getting back into rhythm in Atlanta for Friday's session, and Cutler has given Bennett and other Vanderbilt draft prospects tips on dealing with the NFL Combine, team interviews and visits.
Cutler said he was happy to help someone he sees as a great guy who had a great career at Vanderbilt.
"I'm excited for him," Cutler said.
On a breezy, warm day, the duo capped off a busy Pro Day that featured each NFL team.
Cutler threw 22 passes after the two cracked some jokes during their own warmup, and Bennett caught every one with three deep balls just to help show off Bennett's acceleration. The performance had to help dispel some myths about a receiver who had been tabbed as slow at the combine, where he ran 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Bennett didn't run the 40 Friday. But he showed nice acceleration in chasing down slants and those long passes.
"They're used to each other and of course Earl played pretty good for Jay a few years back," Cook said. "I'm sure he helped Jay back in the day. But you don't find very often for a guy to come back and help out a teammate like Jay did. It was beneficial to Earl I'm sure."
The 6-foot, 204-pound receiver has a batch of visits lined up starting Monday with the hometown Tennessee Titans, who had scouts on hand Friday. Bennett said any chance to work with a pro like Cutler helps.
"I thought we did a pretty good job today, and I'm grateful he came out here," Bennett said.
Bennett wasn't the only prospect being studied Friday. Linebackers Jonathan Goff and Marcus Buggs showed off good hands, while defensive lineman Theo Horrocks and offensive tackle Brian Stamper were among 12 players working out for scouts.
But Vanderbilt's top draft prospect is left tackle Chris Williams, a 6-6, 320-pound lineman projected to go within the top 15 selections who possibly could top Cutler, who was the 11th pick overall in 2006 by Denver.
Williams is breaking up the wait until draft day by getting married on April 5.
"I would've had a month off until the draft. I've got the wedding in the middle, so it's helping a lot," Williams said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.
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