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Hidden Gem: An Interview With Conte Cuttino

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Image via <a href=" " target="new">Lipulse</a>
Image via Lipulse

Talent, passion, dedication, commitment, work ethic and swagger. To me that would be the ad concocted by Rex Ryan to reach out to any player that wanted to be on the New York Jets. So when I heard from a "source" that the Jets were 'very' interested in Stony Brook running back Conte Cuttino, I had to reach out and find out more. My conclusion, after over a week of searching, is that the very ad I envision coming from within Rex Ryan's and the organization control center, could be easily used to describe Stony Brook's all time leading rusher.

Stigmatized with the small school mantra, Conte Cuttino has flown under the radar for too long, only recently has he been starting to receive the recognition that he deserves. Participating in two pro days so far this off-season, he has continued to climb draft boards with impressive numbers, and confident showings. I watched one of Conte's pro days (video will be attached at the bottom) and it is easy to see why scouts are impressed.

With knowledge of the Jets interest, I reached out to Conte, and he never hesitated in agreeing to answer the questions that I had for him, the questions I feel that our readers here at GGN might have for him.

GGN: So growing up, who inspired you to want to play football?

CC: My parents helped me to become the person I am today. The kept me level headed and focused on school and sports. My father attended every game I've played in since I started playing when I was 7, including all of my college games. He helped me to not get discouraged on my mistakes and to do better the next play. Also my first football coach, Frank Mambuca. He saw my talent as a young boy and set the right foundation for my future success.

GGN: What made you choose Stony Brook? With you being an NY native did that factor into the decision?

CC: I really wanted to go to a school down south, somewhere warmer and well known. Originally, I had verbally committed to James Madison University, but they withdrew from signing me because they ended up getting a different, unexpected recruit. That's when Stony Brook came into the picture. Stony Brook sold me on the fact that I would be able to play immediately my freshman year, and their growing football program. 

Join us after the jump for the complete interview

GGN: You had a great Junior year, 6.0 yards per carry, 1000+ yards, what did you work on in 2009 to improve your game even more after having such a successful 2008?

CC: After my 2008 year, I worked more on my blocking and catching, knowing that if I want to make it to the NFL, I would have to be more of a complete player. I worked on getting to know the offense and defense better to improve my game. Unfortunately, you can’t control an injury mid-season, and that set me back on my goal to better my numbers from the previous year. 

GGN: You were part of a formidable backfield in college with yourself and Ed Gowins, was there a little rivalry there to see who could finish with the most yards?

CC: I like to compete and push myself by all means to be a better performer. Gowins and I have a great relationship and we like to push each other by always trying to out do each other during games, but ultimately, we just like to see each other succeed.

GGN: You obviously had an illustrious career at Stony Brook. How does it feel to be leaving the university as the all time leading rusher?

CC: It is a great achievement that I hold proudly. Not everyone can say they hold their schools rushing record. It always brings a smile to my face when someone acknowledges this achievement of mine. I am glad I made some great achievements during my college career, but I plan to make even bigger ones in the NFL. 

GGN: What's your best football memory that you will take from Stony Brook?

CC: My best football memory from stony brook would be my last college game. We played Liberty University for the conference championship. It was the first time I had won a championship! The game ended with a deep pass caught by one of our young wide-outs with seconds left. That was the most thrilling game I had ever been a part of and to come out on top was a blessing.

GGN: How much, if at all, do you feel playing at an "under the radar" school has effected your draft stock, and have you had to do anything differently coming from a smaller school?

CC: Of course I feel coming from a small school is affecting my draft stock. There was, and still is, a major lack of national exposure for people to have seen my talent during my college games. Some of the big time guys who come out of big schools don’t do as well in the NFL as the "smaller" players from smaller schools (i.e., the success of Miles Austin who came from Monmouth University and now plays for the Cowboys); but because of the big school these players come from and because of the exposure they receive, they are drafted above players like myself.
But I’m here to show that despite the small school factor, I can compete with the best and my pro day numbers show that I am among the elite running backs in this year’s draft and I have the abilities to compete on a higher level. If you compare my pro day results to the running backs from the NFL combine, this is how I match up:
4th in 40-yard dash (4.44)
T-2nd in Vertical Jump (40.5’)
1st in Broad Jump (10.7’)
1st in 3-cone drill (6.33)
1st in 20-yard shuttle (4.05)
Coming from a D1AA program, I’ve had to do everything that much better and have numbers that are impressive enough to interest scouts. I’ve kept a clean background history and have been a great collegiate athlete at Stony Brook University (I have a 2.9 GPA). I pray that the scouts can see past the school I come from and recognize my honest talent. 

GGN: So what has the draft process been like so far? What kind of training did you do to prepare for your Pro Day?

CC: Its been a great process for me I withdrew from my last semester of college so I can be dedicated full time in preparing myself for the chance to play in the NFL. For my pro day training, I worked out at Parisi Combine Training School in Fairlawn, NJ. I was there for 8 weeks. I had 2 two hour sessions, 5 days a week. We worked strictly on the fundamentals and technique for my pro day. That training gave me the knowledge and confidence for my big day.

GGN: A lot of players like working their pro day because they are in familiar territory, but you had yours at Fordham, how did that go?
CC: I knew the best opportunity for me to be seen by scouts would be at Fordham, so I didn't mind at all. I work well under pressure and was willing to take advantage of the opportunity. The day went great. I did 17reps on the bench, 10'7 in the broad, 40.5 in the vertical, 4.53 in the 40, 4.21 in the shuttle, and 6.50 in the L-drill. I participated in a second pro day at UAlbany this past Tuesday (March 23rd) an bettered some of my times. I ran a 4.44 in the 40, a 4.05 in the 20 yard shuttle, and a 6.33 in the L-drill.

GGN: A lot of teams had representatives at the Fordham pro day. Were any teams in particular showing interest? And did you get the chance to speak to the Jets representatives?

CC: I introduced myself to every team that was there. I wouldn't say there was any significant conversation or that a team showed great interest, but I did talk to the Jets scouts and they mentioned that they liked my performance that day.

GGN: How will you be watching the draft?

CC: I really don't know how I’m going to go about watching the draft. I won’t let the day get the best of me. I will just be enjoying it with family and relishing the moment.

GGN: For people that may be unfamiliar with your playing style, if you were scouting yourself, what would you say were your best attributes?

CC: I have great vision – I can see the hole and hit it explosively. I have great feet and the ability to cut on a dime. I also have great blocking skills and catching ability. I'm tough and durable enough to run between the tackles and have the speed to bounce it outside.

GGN: Do you feel that working behind a zone blocking scheme like the one the Jets run, would maximize your talents?

CC: I ran in a zone scheme in college so I'm familiar with it and I have shown success in it. I believe I will be a great fit and the transition would be easy, considering the four years experience I have running it. Zone scheme has maximized my talent in college and will maximize my talent even more so with pro coaching, like with the Jets.  

GGN: Which NFL RB would you compare your game to?

CC: I would compare myself as a Brian Westbrook type of player, being a well-rounded athlete and being able to be placed anywhere on the field and being a key factor in the offense.

GGN: You seem to be comfortable in a variety of different roles, taking the hand-off from the I-formation, running a type of wildcat and also receiving out of the backfield. Do you hope/expect to continue to be a versatile back in the NFL?

CC: I believe being versatile is a key asset of mine that sells me as a player. I am able to play in multiple roles in the offense and I also have experience being in the leadership role and taking direct snaps. I hope to expand on those skills in the NFL and show teams how much of a threat I am offensively. 

GGN: If you were selected by the Jets, how do you feel about playing in the laid back, confident style of Rex Ryan?

CC: I love a coach with his type of swagger. He keeps the morale of his players and everyone around him up. I had my share of coaches, all with different types of personalities, and I would be excited to be coached by Rex Ryan. I feel like as a coach you need to be a good balance of stern and  less strict, and I think that Rex Ryan is that type of coach. 

GGN: Finally, away from the football field, what kind of a person is the organization that signs you getting?

CC: They are getting a dedicated, driven, talented athlete that bleeds this sport and is willing to learn any and everything to better my game and give my best to my team. My desire to play in the NFL and succeed in it is very strong. I am a player that plays with a chip on his shoulder and always is out to show up the competition. I am a blue collar player that gets the job done no matter what.

GGN: We appreciate you taking the time to talk with us today Conte, and wish you the best heading into the draft. Hopefully Gang Green picks you up, and we can do this all again in late April.

You all know that I'm a high character type guy, and I have spent the best part of a week researching, reading anything and everything. Watching numerous interviews etc and I have not heard a single bad word said about Conte, like he said his record is clean, and it's not hard to see the determination that he possesses to succeed in the NFL. No outside distractions, he is ready to play and focus, and let his football do the talking.

You can probably tell by now that the impression that I have got from talking with Conte, from watching him perform both on the field during the 2008 and 2009 season, as well as his pro day work outs, well it's a very positive one. One where I believe that he will be an asset both on and off the field.

However, enough with the talk, let's see Conte in action. Below I'm going to present you with some video, and I believe it won't be hard for others to see what I have seen. So first let's kick things off with his pro day performance at Fordham, one I'm told impressed the Jets significantly. Pay particular attention to the vertical:

 All of the pro day drills rank him among the elite, and when you think about his impressive bench rep performance, keep in mind what some of the elite defensive ends put up at the combine. This clearly shows a strong commitment to a weight program. However like we have said many times before on GGN, good drills are nice, game performance is better, so now we move into the Stony Brook Conte Cuttino performances, think Jets offensive line, think good outside blocking, think a back with good vision:

Versatility means everything in the modern game, and I hope you saw just a little bit of what Conte has to offer in those highlights, as well as these 2008 highlights:

Not only am I confident that the Jets are significantly interested, I actually believe that, come late April, Cuttino will be part of the ever-going Jets Nation. We have talked extensively about the need for our team to pick up one, probably two backs in this draft, if Leon leaves like some expect him to, then we need to pick up two minimum out of the draft process. Conte has good early round talent that will likely fall to the later rounds, which means some team will be getting a steal. I'm hoping that we are that team.

A native of New York, Cuttino left Stony Brook as the all time leading rusher, totaling 3,607 yards on the ground. The first Stony Brook player to rush for over 3,000 yards, so he didn't just break the record, he shattered it, and it could of easily been much more.

Lastly I just want to thank Conte for giving us his time to complete this piece. He was a pleasure to deal with throughout, and if he doesn't end up with Gang Green, then the best of luck wherever he lands. Hopefully we can do this again once he has had a taste of the NFL life.