IOWA CITY - Initially, Marvin McNutt was intrigued by the challenge. Now, the converted quarterback somewhat reluctantly embraces the opportunity to rewrite the Iowa football record book for his work as a receiver.
"It would be fine with me if those guys who are at the top of the list could stay there. It's an honor to be mentioned in the same breath with them," said McNutt, who enters Saturday's 2:30 p.m. Big Ten opener at Penn State one touchdown reception shy of the Hawkeyes career record of 21 shared by Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes.
"I've never really been about records. I just do what I can to help the team win games. That is who I am."
That is how McNutt ended up playing receiver for the Hawkeyes in the first place.
The 6-foot-4 senior arrived at Iowa after quarterbacking Hazelwood Central to a spot in the Missouri Class 6 state championship game as a senior at the suburban St. Louis school in 2006.
He threw for more than 3,300 yards in high school, moving behind center as a junior after playing as a receiver earlier in his career.
"I knew a little bit, but being a receiver in high school and being one in the Big Ten are two entirely different things," McNutt said. "I pretty much started from scratch, learning things one day at a time."
McNutt completed 1-of-3 passes as a quarterback for Iowa in a game against Florida International early in the 2008 season, but the redshirt freshman agreed to a mid-season move to receiver to help the Hawkeyes' depth at the position.
He enjoyed the first of his six 100-yard receiving days the following season, catching the first two touchdown passes of his career in a 24-21 win over Arkansas State.
McNutt has continued to grow into the position.
Through four games this season, he has caught 25 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns.
His work has allowed McNutt to climb into the top 10 on Iowa's career receiving charts. He enters his final Big Ten season with 1,959 career yards, 15 yards shy of Kevin Kasper for the fifth spot in the Hawkeye record book.
Only 11 Hawkeyes have caught more than the 113 passes McNutt has received, and only Dwight and Hughes have reached the end zone more than the 20 times McNutt has scored.
"Records are made to be broken, and with the growth he has shown as a receiver in his career, he's very deserving. The way he's picking up yards after the catch this season illustrates the improvements that he has made," said Hughes, now an analyst for the Big Ten Network who caught his passes from 1989-92, five seasons before Dwight's career ended.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz watched McNutt warm to the role of a receiver, growth that started with measured, mechanical movements that have been replaced over time by confident, fluid skill that maximizes his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame.
"We saw good things from him early and the big thing is that he's really learning how to play the position and using what he has," Ferentz said. "He has great size and he's making plays, which is good."
Offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe has seen a number of successful high school quarterbacks attempt to transition to new positions at the college level.
Some succeed. Others don't.
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"Marvin just happened to be one of the guys who had the right mindset and who is athletic enough to adapt," O'Keefe said. "He had Division I basketball scholarship offers and was a very good baseball player as well. He has great hands, great hands, and we saw that quickly."
Even O'Keefe has been somewhat surprised by the way McNutt has excelled at the position.
"I don't think we knew how well he could run in the open field after a catch when he was just playing quarterback," O'Keefe said.
"Obviously, all of the years he has spent up here with our strength and conditioning people have been very beneficial to him. He has a unique set of hands and an ability to use them."
McNutt doesn't take anything for granted.
With 22 starts in the books, he remains a student of the game, trying to learn from each performance.
"I feel like I still have a lot of room to grow. I'm more comfortable lining up at a receiver now. Some of it is experience. Some of it is having other good receivers on the field with me," McNutt said. "I don't feel like I have to do it all. I'm just part of a good group of receivers."
Senior defensive back Jordan Bernstine said McNutt, his roommate, likes things that way.
"He doesn't have the ego a lot of guys do," Bernstine said. "He's a competitor, believing he can get his hands on any ball that comes his way, but he has never forgot the work it took to get to the level where he is at right now and the work it takes to stay on top of his game."