HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – Newly acquired Texans fullback Tyler Clutts is a throwback in every sense possible.
Most would be convinced by his name alone, but oh there is so much more.
In this day of specialized players being developed since Pop Warner, Clutts has played several positions from quarterback to linebacker to defensive end and it wasn’t until his professional career began did he move over to fullback as a means of survival in the game.
With no NFL teams falling over themselves to sign a 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive end out of Fresno State in 2008, Clutts initially took his skills North to the Canadian Football League. Then there was the Arena Football League and the United Football League and there was even a two-year stint as a sometimes licensed insurance agent in between football gigs.
But all Clutts’ hard work, sacrifice and willingness to do just about anything finally paid off two years ago when the Cleveland Browns gave him a shot on their practice squad in 2010. And then his break came last year when shortly after a Cleveland-Chicago preseason game, the Bears signed Clutts off Cleveland’s practice squad to their 53-man roster.
The guy who on a more than a couple of occasions came close to hanging up his cleats and giving this insurance thing his full attention found himself not only on the Bears roster but starting all 16 games for one of the league’s most storied and tradition rich franchise’s.
Now, after being traded from the Bears to the Texans on Friday, Clutts finds that his journey has landed him with a team that some are picking to make it to the Super Bowl.
Even Clutts is having a hard time wrapping his mind on the road that has delivered him here.
“It’s a dream come true,” Clutts said following Monday’s practice. “Everything I put into it, I never stopped training, kept grinding. It’s surreal. Sometimes you don’t get a clear picture of where you are at and then you walk into the locker room and you see guys you have been watching for years and years and it kind of hits you.
“Being here in Houston, the team that is here and the attitude they have I’m blown away with the character that is around here, the work ethic and the drive … What this team wants to accomplish is so clear. It’s rare you find a team like that.”
The Texans, who have been searching for a legit fullback all offseason, believe Clutts is pretty special, too. What he may give up in athleticism compared to Lawrence Vickers and Vonta Leach, he seems to make up for in grit and toughness.
Clutts comes in looking forward to sacrificing and bruising his body so that running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate can pick up those needed yards. He comes in looking forward to being a key player on any of the special teams units coach Gary Kubiak may need him.
“When you get into week 12, 13, 14, 15, your body does hurt and you still got to run through the hole full speed without any hesitation and knowing this is about to hurt,” Clutts said. “But I have to get my job done.”
When you’ve been through what he has to get to this point and then thinking this point may never arrive, it’s easy to see how this young man can be so humble. Clutts finally doing what he always dreamed.
“I’ll do anything and everything that coach asks me to do,” said Clutts, who has taught himself to long snap to make himself even more attractive to teams. “Like I said the more I can do for a team the more value I bring. I don’t ever want to become a Jack of All Trades and a Master of None. But I do want to be able to do multiple things.
“Special teams is what has gotten me a job in the NFL with Cleveland.”
But what has kept him around is his ability to open up holes. He made an instant impact on the Bears offense in the opening week against the Atlanta Falcons, which just a couple days after being signed by Chicago.
Clutts continued to open holes for running back Matt Forte the entire season. He was so good at what he does he received several votes for the Pro Bowl, which should have meant job security.
But when offensive coordinator Mike Martz and the Bears parted ways and Mike Tice took over the offense, the use of a fullback went the way of most of the NFL. The two tight end formations made him all but obsolete and likely to be cut had the Texans not acquired him in a trade for cornerback Sherrrick McManis.
“I came into camp knowing that the odds were against me, seeing as they just like to use tight ends now,” Clutts said. “So it wasn’t a surprise, but it was a surprise that there was as much interest in me as a player.
“I was really impressed with the way Chicago and Houston worked together to get me somewhere.”
Now, Clutts has an opportunity to open up holes for a duo that is considered the best one-two punch in the NFL.
Clutts finds that Foster and Forte have some things in common as elite running backs in the league but there are some differences he has already noticed, too.
“Just seeing Arian Foster on film and being around him these last couple of days, they are very similar because they can both do a lot, they both run hard,” he said. “Matt Forte is a little more shifty, he’s not really going to put his head down as much as Foster is, which is something you really like to see. You like to see your running back really kind of put his head down and fight for those yards.
“Having two backs the caliber as we do here, it’s a fullback’s dream. I hope to only help and improve their game.”