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CEDAR RAPIDS — When former University of Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt was hired to coach the Cedar Rapids Titans, one had to expect the club to adopt a black-and-gold flavor.
In what the franchise termed “Hawkeye Reunion Night,” over 20 former Iowa players spanning five decades attended Saturday night’s game with Wichita Falls at the U.S. Cellular Center to meet fans, reminisce and cheer on McNutt and the Titans, who dropped their third game in a row, 42-23.
“It’s like a family reunion,” said Craig Clemons, a first-team All-Big Ten and All-American safety for Iowa in 1971. “We’re wishing McNutt success. We hope that if there is anything we can do to help him be successful in Cedar Rapids, to call us and this is our outreach. We’re letting him know that we love him, we want him to be successful and we’re here to help him out in any way we can.”
Clemons, now 67 and living in Cedar Rapids, reached the pinnacle of the sport that so many Titans are striving to attain. The 12th pick in the first round of the 1972 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears, Clemons played six seasons in the Windy City and collected nine interceptions. Despite his significant on-field successes, Clemons would recommend an alternate career path in light of today’s increased awareness of concussions and the long-term effects.
“If I knew then what I know now about football and concussions, I wouldn’t play and I wouldn’t have my kids play,” said Clemons, whose son Jonathan played at Iowa for two years. “There’s other ways to learn the valuable life-learning lessons that you learn from football.”
“I don’t think it was worth it. I’ve had a great life and a lot of people say, ‘If you had it to do all over again, would you do it?” and I’m saying no. … I’ve had concussions. I’ve knocked people out and I’ve been knocked out. … 50, 60, 70 years of life are better than the five or 10 I played in the pros.”
Some of the younger former Hawkeyes in attendance, those not far removed from the competitive arena, still feel the pull of the game and expressed admiration for former Hawkeyes like B.J. Lowery and Damond Powell, players still chasing their professional dreams with the Titans (0-3).
“I tip my hat to them,” said Broderick Binns, who played defensive end at Iowa from 2008-11. “I’m done playing, I can no longer do it so I’m kind of jealous of those guys out there still doing what they love to do.”
Binns, 27, just completed his first year as director of player development at Iowa, a position that assists incoming high school recruits with the transition to college.
No matter which era the players made their name, one word best encapsulated the night’s sentiment.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Binns said. “No matter at what point in time that you played, we all did it. … It’s good just to come out and support. We’re always happy for every bit of success. It’s good for Marvin. Just happy for him. Just happy that he got the opportunity to coach here and start his coaching career with the Titans.”
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