If Jay, now 41, did indeed hit the competitive stage again (his last appearance was sixth at the 2013 Olympia) it would be another intriguing chapter in the unique career of one of the sport’s most remarkable bodybuilders. At the conclusion of this feature we’ll consider how remarkable his career has been, but first we look back to the roots of that career.
The Jesuits priesthood has a saying, “Give me a child for his first seven years and I’ll give you the man.” Meaning that a person’s character and life habits are cemented in the way one is brought up. It’s an adage that could well be applied to Jay Cutler, and while his pro career is one of legend and regularly celebrated, its educational to research the lesser-known storyline of his formative years.
MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB, MRS. CUTLER DIDN’T
Sterling, Massachusetts, is a farming community situated about 30 miles west of Boston. Prior to Jay Cutler drawing his first breath there on August 3, 1973, its most famous inhabitant had been Mary Sawyer, who was the inspiration for the classic nursery rhyme Mary had a Little Lamb. Jay was the youngest of seven children: Brothers, Bob, Keith and Randall and sisters Joyce, Kelly and Amy preceded him. His father ran a 175-acre farm and from an early age Jay and his siblings were enlisted to tend to the horses, goats and cows, bale hay and chop up wood.
Truth is with that robust background he was pretty muscular by the age of 12; the runt of the litter had grown into the brute of the litter. His prodigious development was down to genetics, augmented by working in his brothers’ cement business from age 11, where he would tote 70-pound blocks of concrete.
Until he was 18, in response to one of his brothers urging, “Time to get going Jay”, he would haul himself out of bed at 6.00am to put in a few hours at the concrete company before leaving for school. Then most weekends and school vacations, while his pals were fishing or hanging out, Cutler the younger would again be working. It may not have been Oliver Twist, but it sure wasn’t Ozzie and Harriet. He hated being turfed out of bed at the crack of dawn, but never questioned it because from day one he witnessed all his family performing positive actions and he simply copied them. For him the prompt, “Time to get going Jay” became like a bugle call to confront the next challenge.
He was 12 when he saw his first bodybuilding magazine. It was lying around the house, courtesy of a boyfriend of one of his sisters. Chris Dickerson was on the cover, and from deep inside his instincts insisted, “I want to look like that.”
On his 18th birthday he joined the local gym and met future revered contest prep coach, Chris Aceto. Seeing the potential in the new member, Aceto put Jay on a six meals a day meal program that the 18 year old followed meticulously and six months later he had gained 50 pounds. It was at that point that Aceto declared, “This kid’s gonna be Mr. Olympia. Not because of genetics, but because of his drive and dedication.”
IT’S NOT WHERE YOU FINISH, IT’S WHERE YOU START!
Jay Cutler dreamed of being the best bodybuilder in the world, of being a role model, and he made it happen. Along the way he realized that success isn’t down to how you deal with the good times, it’s how you respond to adversity. He was victorious at four Olympias and was second six times. Those seconds and other losses meant a lot to him because he learned more from those setbacks than he did from wins. If you win, you just do the same things next time out. A loss made you think.
Forced you have to figure out a new strategy, analyze where you went wrong and how you can avoid the same mistakes. If Jay had won the 2008 Olympia we wouldn’t have seen the groundbreaking physique he unleashed at the 2009 event. It was retaliation to losing his crown 12 months earlier. Thus he assured me he learned more in losing than in winning.
And now retired – maybe? – as exemplified by the busy commercial life he now leads there is no resting on his laurels, because yeah ….. he can hear it for sure, that age-old summons, “Time to get going Jay.” Whatever he does in life he knows that call to action will always be there, always.
THE UNIQUE CAREER OF JAY CUTLER
Unique? Opinions are by definition open to dispute, facts are not. Consider the following facts. From 2001 through 2011 Jay Cutler competed in 10 Mr. Olympia contests, and finished in the top two on every occasion. Furthermore in all 23 contests he competed in from 2001 through 2011 he was either first or second. His never say die spirit is shown by the fact that his first Olympia victory came after four second places; no previous winner had that “Close but no Sandow” runner-up record before taking the title.
(Of course there are many, the majority, who say he should have won the 2001 Olympia. While leading at the halfway stage. Only to be overtaken by perennial champ Ronnie Coleman in the closing stages of the contest.) He is the only man to lose the Olympia (2008). Returning and win it (2009), and he holds the record for most Olympia runner-up placings: six.
The Oxford Dictionary defines bodybuilder. “A person who strengthens and enlarges the muscles of their body through strenuous exercise”.In many ways Cutler personifies that definition. He is a bodybuilder who made the best of inherent genetics. Harnessed it with iron will power and fanatical dedication to beat others more naturally blessed in the DNA stakes. His trek to his individual summit was not meteoric in the style of say a Haney or a Yates. While not without major setbacks.
In his pro debut he was 12th at the 1998 Night of Champions. His first Olympia appearance in 1999 resulted in a 15th place finish. His story is one of supreme perseverance. Along the way he became one the most financially successful bodybuilder in history. Stated earlier his iconic status engendered in the environs of a small Massachusetts farm back in the ‘70. By that constant urging of, “Time to get going Jay.” He is a legend but his story is also inspirational.