Matt Gutierrez's** path to New England has been an interesting one. The former blue-chip recruit went from Ann Arbor, MI to Pocatello, ID before getting signed as an undrafted free agent by the Patriots. It isn't the way Gutierrez envisioned the last five years going but he's still fulfilling his dream of playing in the NFL.
"It feels great to have this opportunity. I'm excited to be a Patriot and ready to work hard," Gutierrez said. "This is a great organization and I'm thrilled to be here."
Gutierrez was a standout quarterback at De La Salle Catholic High School in California. During his three years as a starting quarterback for De La Salle, Gutierrez never lost a game, while throwing for 64 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.
Gutierrez had virtually every major college program knocking down his door following a stellar high school career. After a long process, Gutierrez decided to attend the University of Michigan in 2002. Right from Day 1, the Wolverine coaches started comparing Gutierrez to another quarterback who wore the maze and blue, Tom Brady.
In 2004, Gutierrez was set to become Michigan's starting quarterback. However, a torn labrum in his right shoulder prevented Gutierrez from taking the field in the Wolverines first game against Miami, Ohio, opening the door for freshman Chad Henne. Gutierrez would end up having surgery that October, essentially ending his career at Michigan.
"Everybody goes through challenges in their career," he said. "It's how you work through them and bounce back. It was tough not playing at Michigan but I learned from the experience and I'm excited to be here today and thankful for the opportunity I have to continue playing football."
After serving as Henne's backup in 2005, Gutierrez transferred to Division 1-AA Idaho State for his senior season. However, the former high school phenom was never able to re-create the magic that once had college recruiters drooling over him. Gutierrez threw for 2,237 yards, 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in his only year as a starting college quarterback.
"I knew the Idaho State coaches through one of my high school coaches," Gutierrez said about his decision to attend Idaho State. "There was a connection there and I felt comfortable with them. It was a chance to come in and play right away. I thought it was my best option at the time and I feel everything worked out for me."
Now a lesser-known, undrafted free agent from a small Division 1-AA school in Idaho, Gutierrez is hoping to showcase the skills that once had his coaches referring to him as the next Tom Brady. As luck would have it, Gutierrez will now be learning from the player he was once compared to five years ago.
"You can't compare people but Tom is definitely someone I admire because of what he's done and all the things he's accomplished in the NFL," Gutierrez said. "I think he's an inspiration to everybody. He plays the game the right way. He plays hard and smart and he carries himself well off the field. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to learn from him."
-Lonie Paxton had a warning to all the new Patriots posted on his fridge. The words, "No Rookies" appeared on the fridge to keep all of Paxton's refreshments safe.
-Don Davis participated in stretching exercises with the players.
-Running back Quinton Smith was present after missing Saturday's practice to attend his graduation at Rice.
-Running backs coach Ivan Fears should continue to be a fan favorite at training camp. His booming voice could be heard all throughout practice and the new running backs seem to take well to Fears' in-your-face approach.
-A day after leaving the field due to exhaustion, Corey Hilliard was able to take part in the entire practice. Hilliard struggled through a lot of the drills and still has a long way to go if he plans on making the team.
-For the second straight day, Oscar Lua spent all of practice manning the inside linebacker spot.
-Receiver Chris Baker – who was in for a tryout on Saturday – wasn't present today. The only receiver on the field Sunday was Chris Dunlap from Georgia Tech.
-Center Mike Elgin continued to be a bright spot. Elgin looked the most comfortable of the three offensive linemen in attendance at mini-camp. If Elgin continues to improve throughout the summer, he could earn himself a roster spot as a seventh-round draft pick.
-Fourth-round selection Kareem Brown lined up at nose tackle during pass coverage drills.
-Bill Belichick said at his Sunday press conference he uses the fact that an undrafted free agent has made the team in each of the last three years as a selling point when trying to sign players after the draft. Since Belichick became the Patriots head coach in 2000, Paxton, Randall Gay, Mike Wright, and most recently Pierre Woods, have all made the final 53-man roster as undrafted free agents.
"You can go back to the seven years we've been here and we try to play the players who have earned and deserved the opportunity to play, regardless of all the other things that could be listed on a resume," he said. "It's really based on performance and production. That's what we try to base our decisions on. I think there is plenty of evidence for that. If that's what a player's looking for, if he's looking for an opportunity, if he's looking for the ability to compete, then I think he'd probably be pretty confident that he'll get that here."