After taking the most circuitous of routes to the NFL, Tyler Clutts suddenly is the right guy in the right spot at the right time.
The 26-year-old rookie fullback played in the CFL, Arena League and United Football League before finally making an NFL roster with the Bears. Six days after joining the team, he made the most of every opportunity in the Bears’ 30-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. If it was a hockey game, he’d have been a plus-5.
Just about every time Clutts was on the field, something good happened. He blocked for Matt Forte’s 56-yard touchdown and for Devin Hester’s 53-yard catch. He was in on Jay Cutler’s one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matt Spaeth. He blocked for Forte’s third-and-one conversion from the Bears’ 17-yard line that set up the Hester screen and Spaeth touchdown. Forte had six yards on his first six carries. With Clutts as a blocker, Forte gained eight and six yards on back-to-back carries. And Clutts was solid on special teams.
‘‘Very excited,” Clutts said. ‘‘In warmups, it was like, ‘This is what I’ve been dreaming of since I was 4 years old, and it’s finally a reality.’ I just feel blessed to have the opportunity.”
After getting cut by the Browns on Sept. 3, Clutts appeared destined to spend the season on their practice squad. His big break was playing the final preseason game against the Bears, a team with as fine an appreciation for special teams as there is in the NFL. The Bears saw something they liked and signed Clutts to their 53-man roster.
‘‘A lot of times you watch a guy on special teams, it’ll tell you a lot about what he is because it’s a war out there every snap,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said.
A 6-2, 260-pound defensive end from Clovis, Calif., Clutts had 23 1â„2 sacks at Fresno State. Denver Broncos offensive tackle Ryan Clady, a first-round pick from Boise State in 2008, called Clutts the best pass rusher he faced in college.
Clutts was cut by the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL in 2009, but he didn’t give up. He switched to fullback, kept working on special teams and even became a long snapper. He faces an uphill battle to stay, but he’s proved he’ll do whatever it takes to make it.