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Y.'S CUTLER DECIDES HEALTH IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN FAME, MONEY

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While reading the various wire service accounts about Chicago Bear defensive lineman Dan Hampton undergoing yet another knee operation - it's at nine and counting - I thought of Chuck Cutler.

A couple of weeks ago on Chris Tunis' KSL Cougar update program, Cutler talked about his lack of interest in trying to make it in the NFL. Before becoming a financial planner and broadcaster of the Cougar football games with Paul James, Cutler was a pretty fair football player. Last year as a senior he led the Cougars in pass receiving with 64 catches for 1,039 yards and 10 touchdowns - numbers that attracted the attention of pro scouts.But Cutler wasn't going to any of the tryout camps. What was wrong with the guy? Surely, anyone who had the kind of skills Cutler had would give anything for a chance to make it in the pros. Right? Wrong.

He wanted the full use of his body in later life, thank you, and didn't have a bit of interest in the high-rolling lifestyle of the NFL.

Cutler had decided even before going to college that he wasn't going to go into the pros. "I came with the intention of getting an education and playing football . . . I wanted to be the best I could be on a college level . . . I did that and now it's time to move on with my life," he said during an interview before last Saturday's BYU-Wyoming game.

Still, the pros refused to buy the "no interest" stuff. Cutler was just saying that to cover up a problem, they believed. They came to the conclusion his problem involved the vogue of the `80s - substance abuse.

"They'd ask Coach (LaVell) Edwards if I had a drug problem. He'd laugh and tell them, `Hey, this guy doesn't even drink coffee,' " Cutler said.

Even after his stellar senior season, Cutler didn't waver in the slightest. He'd had enough of a taste of injuries at BYU to know he didn't want to add to them going against bigger and faster players in the NFL.

On Cutler's collegiate injury list are seven hand operations, ankle problems and a broken back, not to mention the celebrated concussion that caused him to suffer amnesia, resulting in him forgetting he had proposed to his wife. "The injuries. They reconfirmed everything I thought before I came here."

Contrast his philosophy to Hampton's - who still hopes he can recover soon enough to play some more this season. A feature on Hampton in the Oct. 9 issue of Sports Illustrated details the toll of his 10-year career in the NFL:

- Eight of his fingers are misshapen from fractures, dislocations and torn tendons. He can't fully extend either hand.

- He ices his aging (five operations on one, four on the other) knees at least three times a day during the season. The right knee has been weakened by degenerative arthritis and is even more swollen and knobby than the left. When Hampton bends his right knee, he says, it feels as if miniature ball bearings are grinding against one another. To minimize the chronic burning under the kneecap he maneuvers down stairs sideways.

- Sometimes he's in such bad shape that his wife has to dress him. Says Terry Hampton, "He'll sit on the side of the bed, and I'll know he can't do it. He won't have to ask. I can sense it. I put his underwear on him, pull up his pants to where he can grab them and slip his socks and shoes on him."

Cutler wonders why Hampton continues to play, just as he wonders why Phoenix's Neil Lomax, who has an arthritic hip, would want to keep playing.

"There's more to life than fame, money and glory," Cutler says.

Like good health.