Vikings rookie Austin Cutting trotted onto the practice field at TCO Performance Center on Tuesday morning, thus closing a chapter in his life that has weighed heavily on his mind ever since he was selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
As a graduate of the Air Force Academy, the 21-year-old Cutting is required to fulfill a two-year military service requirement, something he will be able to do while simultaneously trying to make an NFL roster.
That much was decided last week, after a few months of deliberation, and Cutting officially signed his rookie contract on Monday.
“It’s definitely a stress taken off of me,” Cutting said. “It was stressful because it was nothing that I could control, yet was still something that I had to keep up with and monitor. It’s nice to be able to be here and focus on football, and at the same time, be able to fulfill my commitment. Just getting here for training camp was a big thing for me.”
His official military job title will be “first-year recruiting lieutenant,” and he will be able to perform his military obligation from the Twin Cities if he makes the team. With the Vikings, he is competing with incumbent Kevin McDermott for the long snapper job, and he doesn’t expect the competition between them to get contentious in training camp.
“It’s awesome to be able to have someone like him that’s been here and has done it for a while, ” Cutting said. “I’m grateful just to be able to be in this situation.”
This wasn’t exactly something Cutting dreamed about as a kid. He remembers being thrust into the long snapper role as a freshman at Central High School in Keller, Texas, and while he was recruited to Air Force to play that same position, he never thought about the prospect of playing professionally.
“It kind of snuck up on me,” he said. “You don’t go to the Academy to play professional sports. You go to the Academy to serve the country.”
That said, Cutting eventually did realize that this might be an opportunity, and is thankful Air Force is letting him chase his dream.
“This is something that the Academy has as a program for us,” Cutting said. “I’m grateful to be able to do both, honestly, to be able to fulfill my commitment as well as be able to potentially make the team.”
As for the logistics of his two-year military service requirement if he doesn’t make the team, Cutting admitted he doesn’t know what the next step would be.
“I don’t have the answer for that,” he said. “Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.”
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