MISSOULA — Kade Cutler grew up in Philipsburg as a die-hard Montana football fan, going to home games for the past decade-plus with his family, which had season tickets.
The senior-to-be looked beyond fandom when it came time to make his college choice, going with his head over his heart and flipping in the rivalry to play football at Montana State. The projected running back had identical offers from both schools, so his decision largely hinged on his future beyond football because he wants to major in engineering.
“That was one of the deal breakers because I want to be an engineer, and MSU is one of the best places to do it,” Cutler said. “Then the coaching staff, I love every single one of the coaches, the team atmosphere, the family. That was everything that sold me on them.”
Cutler said he’s going to Montana State on a half-ride scholarship, a deal that he said Montana coach Bobby Hauck matched. He was offered by MSU in January, by UM at the end of that month, and he also had offers from Montana Tech, Montana Western and Carroll College. He wasn’t told about the monetary value of his scholarship to either MSU or UM until May 19 and ended up committing three days later.
Cutler was primarily recruited by MSU special teams coordinator B.J. Robertson, who was constantly in contact with him through the recruiting process. He noted that he felt similar love from the Griz coaches.
After going to an MSU camp last summer and then some games, Cutler visited Bozeman in the days before the coronavirus pandemic shut things down. A conversation with Cats head coach Jeff Choate helped him along the way in his decision process.
“It was definitely one of the biggest decisions of my life and was a very hard one,” Cutler said. “I was sitting in coach Choate’s office, and he said that I need to find where I fit best. He said he’d love to have me on the team but needed me to find out what fit best for me."
He added: “There wasn’t a whole lot of selling by them. It was ‘This is how we are. This is what a team is. This is the family.’ The whole entire atmosphere felt right. I felt that’s where I fit.”
Cutler is expecting to go to MSU as a running back but said he and the coaches are both open to making position changes throughout his time there. He’s shown his running ability as a dual-threat quarterback for the Drummond-Philipsburg co-op, rushing for 1,435 yards and 29 touchdowns and throwing for 1,473 yards and 24 scores this past season.
This fall will be Cutler’s third season as the starting quarterback and a starting safety for the Titans. He’ll use his versatility to try to go out on top after losing in the 8-Man quarterfinals last year following state championships in 2018, his first season as a varsity starter, and in 2017 when he provided backup duties.
“I like having the ball in my hands,” Cutler said of potentially playing running back at MSU. “I like running through the trenches the big boys make for me. I like everything back there. It’s fun. I’m a very mobile quarterback.”
Cutler was often around football practices growing up while his father, Mike Cutler, was coaching. He started football in third grade and finally got to play for his father in high school.
This fall won’t only be their final season together. It’ll be the final season coaching for Mike, a Montana Western Hall of Famer.
Mike will then be able to spend more time watching his son, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound player who’s worked on the family ranch since he was 13 years old, continues to mature as an athlete and play for MSU.
“He’s a coach’s kid, so he’s extremely intelligent and football savvy,” Mike said. “He’s substantially more gifted than his daddy ever was. He’s just a physical kid.
“If it’s running back, I think his field vision is going to translate really well. He’s been a nightmare to tackle in the open field. The cutback lanes won’t be there at the college level, so he has to learn more north-south running. If it’s safety, it’s his instincts and intelligence there.”
While Kade was considering both MSU and UM, he got a Cats hat and switched between wearing that and a Griz one each day. When he committed to MSU, he donated all his Griz gear to a family in Drummond.
The divided house between his mother, an MSU alum, and his father, who got a masters degree from UM, is now solidly entrenched in the Cats camp.
“There’s so many great things about the University of Montana,” Cutler said, “but my personality, what I want to do with my life, it was Montana State.”
Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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