McNutt becomes the go-to player


Rachel Jessen/The Daily Iowan
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Marvin McNutt is a man of few words.

The Iowa junior wide receiver rarely strays from the standard course when talking to the media — the answers are typically short, simple, and to-the-point. Teammates, such as running back Adam Robinson, described him as "quiet most of the time."

When asked if he recalled any memorable stories of McNutt off the field, Robinson thought for a few moments before responding with an audible, "Umm."

He drew a blank.

"I don't have any stories off of the top of my head," Robinson said.

That's OK, though. McNutt has delivered plenty of memorable moments on the field for the Hawkeyes since being converted from quarterback to wide receiver. The native of St. Louis has recorded 75 catches for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns since 2009.

Before the 2008 season, however, few may have predicted McNutt would go on to make such a big impact for Iowa — at any position.

The former three-star prospect from Hazelwood Central High School sat in the third quarterback spot in the depth chart, behind Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi. In his only playing time behind center, McNutt went a less-than-impressive 1-of-3 for 10 yards and was intercepted against Florida International.

With the likes of highly touted true freshmen John Wienke and James Vandenberg both joining the program, the outlook didn't look good for McNutt.

Later that season, Iowa made the switch. It wasn't an instant success story, though.

"I remember the change to wide receiver, and [McNutt] was so out of shape," offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde said. "He could hardly run the routes for an entire practice."

He collected just one catch that season, but 2009 was a completely different story. McNutt became one of the Big Ten's best big-play threats, grabbing 34 passes for 674 yards and eight touchdowns.

This year has seen similar production for McNutt, but with more consistency. Through 10 games, he has posted 41 catches for 660 yards and six touchdowns.

"He always leads by example," Robinson said. "When we need a big play, Marvin's always the guy to step up and make it."

Want proof? See last year's game-winning snag against Michigan State, last season's game-changing 92-yard touchdown reception against Indiana, and even another game-winner against the Hoosiers — his 52-yard score in Bloomington two weeks ago.

Or simply look at Iowa's game against Northwestern last week in Evanston.

Although the end result was a loss for the Hawkeyes, McNutt's miraculous 23-yard catch on fourth-and-15 with 32 seconds left — despite having two Wildcat defensive backs draped all over him — breathed life into Iowa's faint hopes for a comeback.

It's McNutt's 6-4, 215-pound frame that Wes Bunting, the director of college scouting for the National Football Post, says allows him to finish these type of plays.

"He's a strong-handed kid," Bunting said. "He can play like a power forward in jump-ball situations. These bigger guys don't need a ton of separation to catch the football. And he's a guy, even when he's covered up, he can go make a play for you."

Be sure not to sell McNutt short. Though he's certainly a gifted athlete, it's been a combination of talent and dedication that has elevated No. 7 to become a legitimate wide receiver.

"To just see the work that he's put in and the growth that he's had …" Vandervelde said, almost sounding amazed as he recounted McNutt's journey from his own perspective. "Switching positions is always a difficult thing to do, and he's really taken to the wide-receiver position very naturally."

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