CHICAGO -- Marvin McNutt almost bolted Iowa a couple of times.
It was a passing thought when, after his redshirt freshman year in 2007, he realized quarterback wasn't going to work out for him. Iowa coaches and McNutt talked. He talked to his parents, Anita and Marvin McNutt Sr. He dipped his toe in at wide receiver and hasn't looked back.
"The first time they asked me I kind of talked to my parents about it and we discussed some things and I kind of prayed about it and the feeling kind of hit me," McNutt said. "I just felt that I should stay here and try something new."
Then, last winter, McNutt started looking around. He submitted his name to the NFL Draft Advisory Board and considered making the move to the league. Sure, he was coming off thumb and shoulder surgeries, but he said it was a "50/50 decision."
"There were nights that I would think, 'OK, tomorrow I guess Iím going [announce turning pro],' " McNutt said. "It was like that. I truly thought about it, and glad I made this decision."
Five years after leaving Hazelwood (Mo.) Central High School as a three-sport star with options, McNutt is still here. He goes into 2011 with a chance to write his name in the Iowa record books in ink.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder has 16 career TD receptions, just five off the record of 21 held by Tim Dwight (1994-97) and Danan Hughes (1989-92). That one is definitely within reach, considering McNuttís eight TDs in each of the last two seasons.
McNutt would need to average 6.6 receptions and 82.4 yards a game to catch Derrell Johnson-Koulianos' school records for receptions and receiving yards. It's crazy talk, at least for now, but McNutt is back and he's not here to coast into the 2012 NFL draft.
"Marvin is a tremendous guy, good teammate," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "Itís interesting when he lines up against [all-Big Ten cornerback Shaun] Prater. Nobody talks more than Shaun Prater, but both of these guys are just great guys. Good team guys. They care about each other and they care about the team. And thatís a nice thing."
Peel back a layer and you learn you shouldn't be surprised by McNutt's follow-through into year five at Iowa.
He's been dating Jessica Carr for about a year and a half and has become close with her son, Christian.
"I treat him like my own son," McNutt said. "He looks up to me. He calls me his father, daddy."
Christian wears a jersey to games that says "Little McNutt" on the back.
"I think it definitely has kind of made me become more of a man, and step up into a responsibility type role, to understand that I canít always put myself first," McNutt said. "And I think that it helped on-the-field stuff. You've got to help your teammates. You've got to be able to step up. And you know, you may not like blocking as much as you like catching a football, but at the same time, it has to be done. You want to help your running back."
McNutt has a personal road map that shows the way here. His dad wasn't raised by his biological grandfather.
"He raised my dad and that made it a lot easier for me to be able to help raise Christian," McNutt said. "I know my dad was touched by my grandfather. He really respects him. And I respect my granddaddy. He raised my daddy."
McNutt also was one of the first Iowa players to visit former walk-on tight end Kyle Spading in the hospital. Spading was severely injured in an accident near his hometown, Belle Plaine, last month.
Spading was airlifted to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where he underwent surgery to align his spine with a rod and screws, according to his motherís journal entry on CaringBridge.com. Surgeons reported fractures to the C4 and C5 vertebrae caused ďsevere stretching and bruisingĒ to Spadingís spinal cord.
Last week, Spading had no movement of his arms or legs, but has feeling in his upper chest and some movement in his shoulders, according to the journal. Family reported that he is sedated and they have limited his visitors.
"Heís in my prayers," McNutt said. "I asked for other people just to pray for him as well. Heís in a situation right now . . . Heís definitely my brother and I want to see him do well, and we ask that you all pray for him and his family in this."
McNutt has been Iowa's program since 2007, the season Iowa finished 6-6 and failed to earn a bowl bid. He also caught a TD pass in Iowa's 2010 Orange Bowl victory over Georgia Tech.
He's seen the ends of the spectrum at Iowa. He doesn't know where his final season at Iowa will take him. One minute he beams when talking about a young boy he considers his son. The next, he strikes a solemn tone for a teammate who lies in a hospital bed with an uncertain prognosis.
McNutt hopes to be the first one in his family to graduate from college when he walks across the stage this December with a degree in interdepartmental studies."Itís funny Iíve come this far, itís coming to the last season," McNutt said. "Itís really an honor and a blessing to be part of this Hawkeye tradition and to have a chance to graduate. Iím going be the first one in my family to do that. It'll be a great feeling."