A Record Worth Catching

Oct. 22, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa senior wide receiver Marvin McNutt, Jr., remembers his first collegiate pass reception and his first receiving touchdown. Since those milestones, he has added 122 more catches and 20 additional scores.

The next time McNutt hauls in a touchdown pass, it will be No. 22 for his career, elevating him past any receiver in Iowa football history. McNutt is currently tied for the career touchdown mark with Danan Hughes (1989-92) and Tim Dwight (1994-97).

It all started Nov. 11, 2008, when McNutt, a converted quarterback, caught a fourth-quarter pass from Jake Christensen for 11 yards during a 45-9 win at Indiana. That was his lone catch of his redshirt freshman season.

“I knew the play, and I knew exactly what I was doing,” McNutt said of reception No. 1. “I was just waiting for an opportunity.”

Playing time is why McNutt switched from quarterback to wide receiver. In 2008, Ricky Stanzi — then a sophomore — emerged as the first-string signal-caller, and current starter James Vandenberg was redshirting. Moving the athletic 6-foot-4, 215-pound McNutt to the perimeter made perfect sense.

McNutt didn’t realize how much running would be involved with switching positions, however.

“I didn’t like that at all,” McNutt said with a laugh. “That was probably the hardest part to get used to.”

McNutt’s first touchdown reception came a season later, on Oct. 3, 2009, during a 24-21 win against Arkansas State. He caught a 41-yarder from Stanzi in the first quarter and a 43-yarder in the third. On the first score, an Arkansas State cornerback tried to jam McNutt near the line of scrimmage. After a brief hand-fight, the defender fell to the Kinnick Stadium turf and McNutt was alone for a touchdown.

“I remember my first one,” McNutt said. “Actually I knocked a kid down on the play and then went to the end zone.”

McNutt grabbed a career-high eight passes against Pittsburgh this season on Sept. 17, and his biggest yardage total is 140 against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 3. McNutt has scored touchdowns against 12 teams: Northwestern (three), Ohio State (three), Arkansas State (two), Michigan State (two), Indiana (two), Tennessee Tech (two), Louisiana-Monroe (two), Arizona (one), Georgia Tech (one), Iowa State (one), Minnesota (one) and Wisconsin (one). He has six games of 100 or more receiving yards and four games with two touchdowns.

“If you can help your team win, it’s a great feeling,” McNutt said.

Perhaps the most famous of all McNutt receptions came Oct. 24, 2009, in East Lansing, Mich. Iowa trailed Michigan State, 13-9, with two seconds remaining. On the game’s final play, Stanzi fired a pass to McNutt who ran a quick slant pattern to the goal line. McNutt cut in front of Spartan cornerback Chris L. Rucker and corralled the game-winning catch for a 15-13 Hawkeye win.

There have also been leaping grabs, one-handed catches and big plays in the postseason.

If and when McNutt sets the all-time record, the person on the other end of the pass will likely be Vandenberg.

“If I could get him that pass it would be awesome,” Vandenberg said. “There is no person I would be more excited to see get the record than Marv. He’s done a great job for us for a long time, and I know he has made my job a lot easier.”

A native of St. Louis, McNutt graduated from Hazelwood Central High School where he was not just a three-sport participant (football, basketball, baseball), but a three-sport star. UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that for McNutt in high school, baseball was “probably his sport.” Iowa recruited McNutt as an athlete, and when he arrived on campus he was a fulltime quarterback.

So when it appeared that Stanzi would be the Hawkeye quarterback of the future…

“Good players want to be on the field and they want to help the team win,” Ferentz said. “That’s how Marvin was thinking, and he’s invested a lot of hard work and a lot of effort into becoming a good player.”

As for that career as a college quarterback, McNutt is 1-for-6 passing for 10 yards and an interception.

Change always comes bearing gifts.

Name Years Catches-Yards-TDs
Danan Hughes 1989-92 146-2,216-21
Tim Dwight 1994-97 139-2,271-21
Marvin McNutt, Jr. 2008-11 123-2,119-21