‘Dores in the Pros: Vanderbilt alums making waves in the NFL

Adam Butler (69) scores on a fumble recovery during Vanderbilt's game against UMass September 13, 2014 at Vanderbilt Stadium Nashville, TN. Vanderbilt won its first game of the season 34-31. Photo by Ziyi Liu.

On September 2, all of the teams in the NFL had to trim their rosters to 53 players. There are 10 former Vanderbilt players that survived the cuts and will be playing on Sundays throughout the year.

Here’s a look at the Vanderbilt alumni playing in the NFL this season:

Adam Butler, Defensive Line, New England Patriots

After amassing 31 tackles and four sacks in Vanderbilt’s 2016 season, Butler was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent. In the preseason, he recorded four tackles and four quarterback hits with limited playing time.

Zach Cunningham, Linebacker, Houston Texans

Cunningham, Butler’s teammate last season, led the SEC in 2016 with 125 tackles. He was selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. He had 17 tackles in three preseason games and is shaping up to be one of the team’s backups at inside linebacker.

Jay Cutler, Quarterback, Miami Dolphins

Incumbent Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered an injury that required season-ending knee surgery. The team responded by signing Jay Cutler out of FOX’s broadcasting booth. Cutler was drafted 11th overall by the Broncos in 2006 after leaving Vandy as the SEC Offensive Player of the Year. The highlight of his soon-to-be 12-year career was an NFC Championship appearance with the Chicago Bears. The Bears lost to the Packers after Cutler became injured in the middle of the game, and the brother of former Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers went on to win the Super Bowl for the Packers that year.

Andre Hal, Safety, Houston Texans

Hal was taken in the final round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Texans. In the past three years, he has six interceptions and 105 tackles. He will be one of the Texans’ starting safeties to begin the regular season.

Casey Hayward, Cornerback, Los Angeles Chargers

Hayward was a second-round pick to the Green Bay Packers in the 2012 Draft. He played his first four years with the Packers, and was tied for fifth in the league in interceptions as a rookie with six. After signing with the Chargers in free agency a year ago, he led the league in interceptions with seven.

Will Holden, Offensive Lineman, Arizona Cardinals

Holden is the third player from Vanderbilt’s 2016 team on an NFL roster. He was drafted in the fifth-round by the Cardinals, and is one of the four backup offensive linemen on their roster.

Wesley Johnson, Offensive Lineman, New York Jets

Johnson, also a fifth-round pick, was selected by the Steelers in 2014. The Jets claimed Johnson after the Steelers waived him in the middle of 2014, and he will go into his second season as starting center for the Jets.

Jordan Matthews, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills

Matthews was drafted in the second round of the 2014 Draft. In his final year at Vanderbilt, Matthews was named an AP All-American, and set SEC records in career receptions and career receiving yards. He played his first three seasons on the Eagles, but was traded to the Bills in mid-August.

Spencer Pulley, Center, Los Angeles Chargers

Pulley is entering his second season after going undrafted in 2015. He is slated to become the starting center of the Chargers. With Casey Hayward, the Chargers would be the only team to start two Commodores in Week One of this season.

Stephen Weatherly, Defensive End, Minnesota Vikings

Weatherly is going into his second year on the Vikings after being drafted by them in the final round in 2016. He left Vandy with 10.5 sacks in his career along with a touchdown on a blocked punt.

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