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CEDAR RAPIDS — The victories haven’t been there, but the rewards are still plentiful for first-year Cedar Rapids Titans Coach Marvin McNutt.
“It’s been an awesome experience,” said McNutt, who will lead the Titans (1-9) in an Indoor Football League game against the Arizona Rattlers (5-4) Friday at 7:05 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Center. “From the support of Cedar Rapids, from the support of my family, my wife, my players. It’s an awesome experience to feel what it feels like to be a head coach and to see that you can do it.”
The former University of Iowa receiver has enthusiastically embraced the difficult challenge of rebuilding the sixth-year franchise with a roster largely comprised of IFL rookies. With aspirations of eventually coaching receivers at the collegiate or NFL level — he termed being an assistant for his alma mater “the dream” — McNutt has received a thorough introduction in preparing game plans, coordinating practices, juggling off-field tasks, and calling offensive plays on game day.
“It’s a learning experience,” said McNutt, 27. “I’m always a person that loves to learn, loves to try to get better and my team is a representation, I feel like, of the person I am because these guys every single day come out, work and try to get better.”
With both coaches and players striving for opportunities at the next level of the game, the franchise is energized when one comes along. Cedar Rapids defensive back B.J. Lowery — like McNutt, a former standout for the Hawkeyes — departs Friday after he received an NFL mini-camp invitation from the Carolina Panthers. Lowery, 25, collected 51 tackles and is tied for the league lead with 10 pass breakups in 10 games for the Titans and was one of the final roster cuts of the Denver Broncos before the 2016 regular season.
“It’s what we always talk about in our locker room,” McNutt said. “‘Guys, we’re not far away from that level, so if we are going to get there you’re going to have to prepare, play, mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for it.’ B.J. was prepared at Iowa for it, it’s just how we were brought up.”
McNutt calls building relationships with his players and seeing his teaching play out successfully on the field as the most rewarding aspects of the job. Despite a one-win record with six games to go, the players have continued to rally with an inspired level of effort.
“That’s the best thing about it,” McNutt said. “Even though they know we probably can’t get in the playoffs, they haven’t let that ship sail. … Because I tell them every day, ‘Regardless of record, you still have film. You’ve got film and the eye in the sky don’t lie. You don’t want to put out bad film.’ These guys know that in order for them to get looks, they have to play well. And to play well, means we win. They know what’s at stake. Their careers are still at stake.”
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