- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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Is your 401(k) suddenly a 201(k)? Did the election turn your yard full of signs into a political graveyard? Need something to feel happy about in life?
Take a look at Jay Cutler's BlackBerry. The Broncos quarterback will let you if you ask. His PR guy sends him e-mails, dozens a week, like this one:
We believe Jay saved our son. Sam is a high school freshman who plays football. He'd lost a lot of weight, but we did not know if it was from the intense summer workouts or not. He was drinking a great deal of water, eating a lot and still losing weight (25 pounds). We read an article about Jay and made the appointment. Sam was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and sent to the hospital. He hopes to be back at practice soon. We just want Jay to know the great impact he's had on our lives.
Which is crazy, because when Cutler first hit the NFL, he seemed like the last guy to help anybody.
Shy and mop-haired, he led the league in shrugs. He looked like he had terminal influenza. The bags under his eyes had bags. And yet he'd sleep 10 hours at night and three more after practice. He lost 35 pounds in the 2007 season alone. He couldn't concentrate. He was starting to look like the biggest bust since Lindsay Lohan. And that's when he found out he had diabetes. Or rather, it had him.
"At first I thought, I can beat this," he says. "But after two weeks, I was like, Why me? Why do I have to poke myself 20 times a day? You feel sorry for yourself. Then I came to grips with it. I realized it wasn't going away. And I realized I wasn't the only one."
My son Chase, 11, was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He is being so brave. He has given himself every shot! One of the first questions he asked: "Can I still play football?" Someone told him about your condition, and you could see the wheels turning! I know it sucks, but thank you for giving my son a mentor.
Cutler is lucky. "I got it when I was 24. I'm an adult. I can handle things. But if you're 4 or 5, it's gotta feel like the worst thing in the world. Parents panic at first. They know you can possibly die from this."
When Jay's diabetes was diagnosed, his blood glucose levels were between 300 and 400. Normal levels after eating are around 140 to 160. Had he not treated it, Cutler could've slipped into a diabetic coma.
That panicked another parent—Cutler's mom, Sandy. She wanted to move in and help him. Cutler refused. He wanted to do it all himself.
He was awful at it. "The first week, my left hand was trashed with finger-prick test marks. You're paranoid, but you figure it out."
Dear Jay Cutler,
You signed an autograph for my 10-year-old grandson. I did not have a chance to tell you how much you mean to diabetic kids like him who really need role models. Some of these kids worry about whether they will be able to lead a "normal" life when they get older. They wonder about pretty heavy things like being able to go to college, to have a career and a family. You convince these kids that by managing their disease, they are capable of being anything they want to be.
What Cutler wants to be is a normal QB, but he never will be. From now on, he'll have more holes than a Jessica Simpson movie.
Gamedays, he gets so geeked to play that his adrenaline drives his blood glucose levels up, so he has to check himself after every first-quarter possession. He can do it in under 30 seconds. If he's low, he drinks orange juice or eats chocolate. If he's high, he injects himself in the stomach with insulin. All while coaches yell stuff at him. You think Eli Manning has to mess with this stuff?
"I'm amazed by him," says Broncos trainer Steve Antonopulos. "He's taken control of this. People come to him with questions."
If you saw the look on my 6-year-old's face watching you discuss diabetes on TV, you would have shed a tear. I have now been summoned to buy a Broncos jersey. We are the biggest Jets fans possible. But my son saw a glimmer of hope with Jay, so how can I resist?
Who'd have thought the mope would become the hope?
Jay Cutler didn't plan on being a role model. Now he has no choice.