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CEDAR RAPIDS — Watching the Cedar Rapids Titans practice in the U.S. Cellular Center Wednesday night, you half-expected Marvin McNutt to don a helmet and pads, run some routes, and say “This is how it’s done.”
At 27, McNutt still looks every bit the person who had a magnificent career as a wide receiver at Iowa, taking ownership of school records for career receiving yards (2,801) and touchdown catches (28).
McNutt bounced to four different NFL teams over three NFL seasons. He went from being a sixth-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012 to getting released by the Washington Redskins’ practice squad during the 2014 season.
He played in five regular-season games over those years and didn’t catch a pass. Which tells you how stacked the NFL is with talent if someone of McNutt’s skills couldn’t break through.
But that isn’t the end of McNutt’s football story, which will be a lot longer if he has anything to say about it. He is now a head coach, of the Indoor Football League’s Titans. Their season-opener is Friday night at home against the Green Bay Blizzard.
This isn’t Kinnick Stadium and this isn’t the NFL. The crowds are in the low four-digits, and the scores never show up on ESPN’s scrolling tickers.
But this is a place to learn how to be a coach, and how to work with athletes who have talent. Included on McNutt’s team are former Hawkeye players B.J. Lowery and Damond Powell.
“The hardest part is making it all fit the way it’s supposed to fit,” McNutt said. “I feel confident in the plan we have, and we’ve got guys who have bought into our system of offense.”
Coordinating an offense is just one element of what McNutt has to do.
“It’s a whole process,” he said. “There are a lot of little things that go into being a coach, chopping up film, making game plans. I have to make sure we have backups ready on special teams, that I have enough guys who know how to hold a football (on field goal tries) in case someone’s down.”
The coaching life, McNutt says, is what he had already decided what he’d wanted when the Titans offered him the job last fall. He had already been working in this area as a football instructor for high school and middle school kids.
“I started thinking about coaching later on as a player, around my senior year,” he said. “I have aspirations of being a receivers coach, either in college or the pros. Becoming a head coach is my ultimate goal.
“I like challenges. I love being competitive. I’ve always been that way. This is something I really wanted to be part of.”
This is a minor league of indoor football, not the major league of football-football. But, McNutt says, “Football is football. It’s just the space you have to work with that’s different here. You have to get a little more creative.”
It’s definitely a place where he can find out if he can keep players motivated, focused and pushing forward, playing 16 games from Friday through June. Coaching is coaching, and if nothing else, this is where McNutt will find out just how much he likes and wants to do it.
Kickoffs start caroming off nets and defenders start pinning receivers against hockey boards Friday night.
“You want football and you want fast action, come watch us,” McNutt said. “Especially since you don’t have the Hawkeyes for a while.”