At the ripe age of 7, Nick Cuthbert decided to put an end to his soccer playing days. He was old enough to play football and he wanted to participate in a sport that was a little more physical and offered a chance to hit somebody.
Fourteen years later as a redshirt junior safety at Kent State, Cuthbert has been drilling opponents venturing into the secondary. He has also hit the books to the point that the Golden Flashes, the Mid-American Conference and national organizations have recognized him for his academic performance.
Cuthbert has earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors and twice this season has been named MAC Male Scholar Athlete of the Week. Cuthbert has met, if not exceeded, the demands on and off the gridiron thanks to his knack for tackling all that needs to be accomplished each and every day.
“I think time management is the most important thing, just knowing what all you have to do and being able to set aside time and prioritize the tasks that need to be done,” said Cuthbert, who has a 3.96 GPA and will earn his undergraduate degree in criminal justice at the end of the current semester. “Then if you are lucky you have some free time to relax and enjoy life away from football and academics.”
Cuthbert’s accomplishments seem pretty remarkable given he was not awarded a scholarship until the conclusion of spring semester this year. He spent had spent three seasons, the first two as an inactive player, as a walk-on at two different schools.
The Chesterland, Ohio, native headed south to Atlanta in the summer of 2012 to begin his collegiate career at Georgia Tech. The preferred walk-on did not play for the Yellow Jackets that season and he never would.
“I went down there because it was my best opportunity to play at a higher level,” he said. “I did not get looked at by a ton of schools, so late in the recruiting process Georgia Tech offered me as a preferred walk-on. There were no other Division I schools even looking at me, so that’s why I took it.”
A year later Cuthbert returned to the Buckeye State and walked on with the Golden Flashes, though he had to sit out the 2013 season as a transfer.
“It was a great school and I enjoyed my time there, but I did not really mesh,” he said of Georgia Tech. “It did not feel right, so I decided to come back closer to home and Kent State was my choice.”
Not only was going to school one hour from home, but as a walk-on he was made to feel at home with the team. For that Cuthbert credits safeties coach Jeff Burrow.
“He did not really treat me any differently as a walk-on as some people might think,” he said. “He gave me a fair opportunity to display my football talents.”
Cuthbert had the opportunity to make his first career start against visiting Army last October 18. He responded with a game-high and career-high 16 tackles and finished the season with 36.
In the offseason he absorbed as much as he could about the defense and his diligence has paid off. While he has not started every game, Cuthbert has been a regular and has lined up at outside linebacker as well as safety. The 6-foot, 215-pounder heads into Friday’s MAC season-finale against visiting Akron with 54 tackles, including 3.5 for loss.
“I wanted to work on my knowledge of the game,” he said. “Last year I was kind of just playing my position, but this year I have been able to learn the concepts and understand the defense completely.”
His multiple weekly honors would seem confirm that. The academic honors are nice, too, though Cuthbert does not put a lot of stock into the recognition he has received.
“It is nice to get recognized for the work done off the field and on the field at the same time,” he said. “Individually, I am not too concerned with it, but it is refreshing to (be honored).”
As for the challenge in maintaining such a high standard when it comes to the classroom, Cuthbert makes it seem pretty simple.
“If you put in the work that you need to, pay attention in class and are able to stay on top of what you need to, then I feel that you are pretty much good to go,” he said.
Cuthbert has been good to go since returning home.
Above and middle: The return home to Kent State has been good for the Golden Flashes’ Nick Cuthbert, both on the field and off. (Courtesy of Kent State Athletics)