The Many Mentors of Daylan McCutcheon

Daylan McCutcheon (Photo: Greg Powers)

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Every wide receiver in a Todd Dodge-led program for the last 25 years knows that when they catch a football, they must yell ‘Yes!’ or ‘No!’ Yes means they see the laces when they tuck the football away. No means they don’t. Whether or not the laces face up doesn’t matter; only the fact the receiver is looking the football into his chest. Ball security is job security.

It’s a small detail – easy to forget, especially for a wide receiver of Daylan McCutcheon’s caliber who’s compiled 33 scholarship offers and won District All-Purpose MVP without yelling about the laces. On Dodge’s first day at Lovejoy in February, he took a break from unpacking moving boxes to shake hands with USC’s Lincoln Riley, Ohio State’s Ryan Day and Mike Norvell from Florida State, all visiting the high school for McCutcheon. 

“By the end of the day, I knew he was probably pretty good,” Dodge said.

Yet in every practice, McCutcheon’s voice, screaming ‘Yes!’ and ‘No!’, rings across the field. He had 92 receptions for 1,423 yards and 19 touchdowns last year and changed how he caught the football this offseason.  

Sometimes when you take a job, the guys that are pretty established and have a lot of skins on the wall can sometimes be the hardest to deal with because they kind of think they’ve arrived,” Dodge said. “He’s nothing like that.”

Of course, it helps that Dodge is past the point of earning credibility - having accomplished a three-peat state championship run with Southlake Carroll and Westlake. His pass-happy offenses have berthed stars like Greg McElroy, Chase Daniel, Sam Ehlinger and Cade Klubnik. Dodge says he realized McCutcheon was legit when the receiver scored four touchdowns in the first spring scrimmage. McCutcheon says he realized Dodge was legit because he was wide open on all of them.

But McCutcheon knows the pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret. 

“I still do the little things because I know if I don’t do it in practice, I’m not going to be able to do it in the game,” McCutcheon said. “I don’t want to start dropping it in the game and realize, ‘I need to go back to my old self.’ It’s better to keep the repetition now.”

When informed of McCutcheon’s practice habits with a new coach, Chris Ross says he isn’t surprised. Ross coached McCutcheon for three seasons before leaving Lovejoy in January to become the Stephen F. Austin offensive coordinator. McCutcheon’s intensity elevated the entire team, and Ross credits him for mentoring last year’s second-leading receiver, Ethan Nelson, after he switched positions as a senior. Nelson earned First Team All-District honors. 

“You get a fist bump from a guy like Daylan; it means a lot,” Ross said. “He’s that kind of leader.”

McCutcheon’s presence in the locker room is vital for a Lovejoy team replacing a loaded senior class highlighted by quarterback Alexander “Hondo” Franklin,  wide receiver Parker Livingstone (Texas) and linebacker Payton Pierce (Ohio State). While McCutcheon is not a one-man show, his versatility can buoy the team while they develop new playmakers. 

“Is he a deep threat? Absolutely,” Ross said. “Is he a route runner? He’s an outstanding route runner. He’s a great blocker, and he has been since he was a sophomore. And he’s completely unselfish. There are very few kids who can do all the things that Daylan can do.”

Because few have the hunger to learn like McCutcheon does.

McCutcheon polished his game by taking lessons from the older wide receivers in Lovejoy’s program. As a sophomore, he practiced daily with current LSU receiver Kyle Parker, SMU wide receiver Jaxson Lavender and Livingstone. Parker taught McCutcheon physicality, like in the Argyle game in 2022, when the senior caught 23 passes for 341 yards. Lavender, meanwhile, helped him improve his speed, while Livingstone showed him the art of route running.

Dodge is the next mentor in a long line McCutcheon has glommed on. That’s why he’s the prospect he is. 

“He’s every bit as good or better than anybody we’ve ever had,” Ross said.

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