Iowa senior receiver Marvin McNutt is a shining example of why it’s important to have a Plan B.
And for me, he’ll always be a reminder not to judge too quickly.
To say that McNutt didn’t make a positive first impression as a quarterback-turned-receiver would be putting it mildly.
McNutt looked slow and stiff the first time I saw him play receiver against Indiana in the seventh game of the 2008 season. He looked just like what he was: A former quarterback trying to play a new skill position.
Most position switches happen during the offseason, but McNutt agreed to do it midway through his redshirt freshman season.
He caught his first pass in the Indiana game three years ago. It gained 11 yards and made a first down.
But McNutt barely played the rest of the 2008 season so nobody had any clue that he was on the verge of becoming arguably the greatest receiver in school history.
There is more than enough proof to say that now with McNutt entering today’s game against Michigan State with a school-record 25 career touchdown receptions. He also has 2,505 receiving yards, which is the second most in school history behind former teammate Derrell Johnson-Koulianos’ 2,616 yards.
“It’s definitely a great honor,” McNutt said of being called arguably the greatest receiver in school history. “When you work at a position, you hope that one day people will say things like that about you.”
McNutt doesn’t look slow or stiff running routes anymore. He glides past defenders and routinely finds ways to get open.
McNutt had to correct a reporter who praised him recently for making the switch look easy.
“You can say I made it look easy, but it’s definitely not easy,” McNutt said. “There is definitely a lot of hard work that went into it.”
Fans don’t see the hard work, only the end result.
There was a long list of challenges that McNutt had to overcome, perhaps none more daunting than his lack of speed and conditioning for a receiver.
McNutt probably ran more during his first hour of practice at receiver than he did during his first season-and-a-half playing quarterback for Iowa.
But thanks to a daily recipe of hard work and the guidance of the Iowa strength and conditioning staff, McNutt trimmed his time in the 40-yard dash from 4.72 seconds to 4.5 seconds.
He always felt that he had good enough hands to make the switch, but now he has the speed to match.
McNutt is hardly a blazer, but at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and with sticky fingers, he doesn’t have to be.
“He’s definitely made himself a lot faster,” said junior cornerback Micah Hyde, who competes against McNutt every day in practice. “I wouldn’t call him slow when I first got here. But he was on the slow side a little bit.
“But he’s definitely picked up his stride. He takes long strides. He doesn’t really look like he’s running fast, but he usually is.”
McNutt’s rise to stardom started during the 2009 season. With each Saturday came another coming out party.
And even though he had to share the stage for two seasons with Johnson-Koulianos, McNutt still earned a reputation for making big plays.
His touchdown catch on the final play of the 15-13 victory at Michigan State in 2009 is permanently etched in the minds of Iowa fans.
McNutt also caught a 92-yard touchdown pass against Indiana in 2009 and he scored the first points in Iowa’s 24-14 victory over Georgia Tech in the 2010 Orange Bowl by catching a 4-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
Last season was more of the same, with McNutt scoring on a 52-yard touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference in Iowa’s 18-13 victory over Indiana.
Barring an injury, he will break virtually all the UI single-season receiving records. And if he matches his per-game average of 106.6 receiving yards, McNutt on Saturday will become just the fourth Iowa player to have at least 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
McNutt did all the hard work to reach this point, but he hasn’t been alone on the journey.
He credits Iowa receivers coach Erik Campbell and the other Iowa receivers for pushing him on a daily basis and for teaching him along the way.
“Coach Campbell is definitely a great person to learn from, but as well as all these receivers I’ve been with,” McNutt said. “The older guys did a great job of helping me make the transition.”
McNutt had to check his ego in order to reach this point.
He could’ve been bitter about how things worked out at quarterback, but instead of sulking or making excuses, he embraced a new challenge.
It helped that McNutt was gifted enough physically to make the switch work because many quarterbacks would be lost if they had to line up anywhere except from behind center.
McNutt moved from quarterback to receiver about midway through the 2008 season after it became apparent that then-sophomore Ricky Stanzi was Iowa’s top quarterback.
“As far as the season when I did make the transition went on, Rick was doing a great job and it was going to be hard for anyone to come in and take his spot,” McNutt said. “So I wanted to be out there playing. I didn’t want to sit out and wait.
“I wanted to help the team as much as I could. And if that meant becoming a wide receiver, that was my job.”
McNutt soon will have a chance to make playing receiver his real job, because you have to think with his size and with his productivity that NFL scouts are well aware of him.
McNutt didn’t just change positions by switching from quarterback to receiver; he changed the course of his life.
“When they brought it to me, it was definitely a decision that had its pros and cons,” McNutt said. “But I’m definitely glad now that I made the decision.”
So are thousands of Iowa fans.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football