There are 11 receivers on the Dolphins’ roster competing for perhaps five spots. Pressure?
“This is fun out here,” says one candidate, Marvin McNutt.
“That’s a little bit more scary,” he says.
McNutt knows something about what’s fun and what’s funny. The sweat pouring down his face at the end of practice proves there’s not much humorous about training camp — other than hazed rookies’ butchered hair — but McNutt and his college buddy, Jordan Bernstine of the Washington Redskins, hosted a comedy show back at Iowa that he suspects could turn into more than just a one-night stand.
McNutt did not perform a stand-up routine, but he did tell a few jokes and, much to his relief, got laughs.
“I just know I made sure all the women knew he was single and I wasn’t,” McNutt says of Bernstine.
McNutt has stood up to be counted in these opening days of camp. He made three notable catches Sunday and on Wednesday caught a 9-yard slant from Ryan Tannehill for a probable touchdown (defensive players weren’t teeing off on receivers).
Encouraged? Certainly. Excited? Even though McNutt is only 24, he knows better than to let emotions get the best of him. A sixth-round draft choice of Philadelphia a year ago, he spent most of the season on the practice squad before getting called up for the final four games … but just as quickly, he was released.
“You come in on a high, the next day you can be real low,” he says.
Or, sometimes, it’s the other way around. He was “heartbroken” May 14 when cut, rejuvenated May 15 when the Dolphins signed him. He has long expected pro success. Growing up a Rams fan in St. Louis, he told his mother, Anita, that he would play in the NFL, NBA and major leagues.
“Still gonna happen,” McNutt says.
“I don’t know,” he says, laughing. “It’s going to work, though. I can still swing a bat, throw it from center (field) and I’m pretty sure I can still play a little basketball.”
His athleticism and size (6-feet 2, 215) go a long way toward explaining how he has made it this far. He was an all-state quarterback in high school and joined the Hawkeyes as a passer, but his dream of becoming the next Kurt Warner didn’t last. He was asked to change positions.
“Oh, I was heartbroken,” he says.
That heartbreak didn’t last long, either. He became a record-setting receiver for Iowa, finishing with 170 receptions for 2,861 yards and 28 touchdowns, including 1,315 yards as a senior. His offensive coordinator? Ken O’Keefe, now receivers coach of the Dolphins.
While McNutt says he is working toward “gaining his trust on the NFL level as well,” it’s clear he is gaining respect in the locker room.
“Consistency,” receiver Brian Hartline says of McNutt. “Being in the right spot at the right time. He’s catching the football well. He’s a big body, so he does a good job of shielding defenders off.”
Hartline and Mike Wallace are entrenched as starters, with Brandon Gibson in the slot. All have four seasons of NFL experience. Behind them are eight receivers, none with more than a year of experience. Of the group, Armon Binns, Rishard Matthews and McNutt are the only players to have appeared in an NFL game.
It’s a muddled situation, but McNutt isn’t about to let nerves get the best of him. Playing football, after all, isn’t as nerve-racking as standing in front of a microphone (“Eleven wide receivers walk into training camp …”).
“It takes a lot of guts,” McNutt says of stand-up. “It’s like being a kicker, almost. You’re the only one they’re staring at, so you’ve got to make the play.”