Beat the Blitz
Jay Cutler was exhausted–sometimes at kickoff. His arm was weakening and he was losing weight. “The medical staff and I both thought maybe it was just the mental and physical stress of being a starter,” he says. He made it through last season, and then received his diagnosis this April: type-1 diabetes. “I'm not counting on a cure,” says the 25-year-old. “But I'm not going to let this control me.”
Cutler had joined a team of 2 million other Americans with type-1 diabetes. His pancreas was no longer able to produce insulin, which helps move sugar from the blood into cells for energy. That explained the 30-plus-pound drop in weight. Still, he started all 16 games last season and completed 64 percent of his passes, for nearly 3,500 yards. “I was relieved when we figured out what it was and that it was treatable,” he says, “Now I can play at 100 percent of my ability.”
Cutler's health depends on a small insulin pump (removed for games). He calculates the carbohydrates on his plate and tweaks the pump accordingly. He lifts more to reverse muscle loss. “I'm going to stay healthy,” he says. “I'm going to put up points, and we're going to put up wins. It's that simple.” His four principles of perseverance follow.
Principle 1: Understand the Opposition
Cutler played defensive back in high school. “I saw how the defense preyed on a QB,” he says. “I saw the whole field, the routes, the traps, and all the offensive vulnerabilities.” It works in life: Northwestern University researchers found that people who understand the other party's point of view are more likely to forge a favorable deal.
Principle 2: Grab Your Shot
Only Vanderbilt–not exactly a pigskin powerhouse–offered Cutler a scholarship. He lit a fire under the offense and proved his smarts against more talented teams. “That made me a better leader,” he says.
Principle 3: Play Above Your Pay Grade
Cutler was sacked 80 times at Vanderbilt, but it forced him to improve his body and mind. “My approach in the weight room was to do everything that the tight ends and linebackers were doing.” He packed on 40 lean pounds. Under defensive pressure, he “learned to read defensive schemes faster, make decisions quickly, and put the ball exactly where it needed to be.”
Principle 4: Never Play It Safe
Cutler was certain to be drafted, but he still attended the NFL Combine, a potential contract killer. “I still had something to prove,” he says, “but I also knew I had the best arm, so why hide it?” He passed beautifully, banged out 23 bench-press reps at 225 pounds, and ran a 4.77-second 40-yard dash. His stock skyrocketed. Pressure can help: “Those last-minute drives–that's what you play for. If you can't enjoy those situations, then you'll never be great.”
Could Diabetes Sideline You?
Jay Cutler played an entire NFL season without knowing he had type-1 diabetes, a disease that usually strikes in childhood. Symptoms may not be obvious in a fit adult athlete, says Keith Berkowitz, M.D., an internal-medicine specialist. Watch for these warning signs. If you experience them, go to your doctor.
Constant thirst and frequent urination: When your kidneys can't filter and absorb excess blood sugar, you become dehydrated, so you drink more (and pee more). Drinking a lot and still being thirsty “are pretty big signs,” Dr. Berkowitz says.
Weight loss and fatigue: Without insulin, sugar from food can't reach cells, so muscle and fat stores shrink. That can make you tired and irritable. “If you're not performing at your peak, something's wrong,” Dr. Berkowitz says.
Blurred vision: High glucose levels in the blood can damage the blood vessels in the retina. If left untreated, this can cause dark spots, flashing lights, and eventually, blindness.
High blood sugar damages capillaries that nourish nerves, especially in the feet, hands, and penis. The poor bloodflow causes a tingling sensation.
Kelsey Grammer Got Tattooed Near His Balls So He Wouldn’t Cheat on His Wife
And you thought romance was dead.