Editor's Note: Leading up to the start of Northern Illinois spring football practice on March 22, the Daily Chronicle will be presenting readers with stories on each of the new assistant coaches. Also, be sure to pick up a copy of the Daily Chronicle to clip out our special card of each assistant.
NAME: Richard McNutt
POSITION: Northern Illinois cornerbacks coach
RECRUITING AREA: Chicago and Ohio
DeKALB – The anticipation in Columbus, Ohio was well deserved entering the fall of 2002. A talented Ohio State football team was expected to have one of those years. Anything seemed possible.
And cornerback Richard McNutt was supposed to help lead the way.
But after starting the season's first six games, a degenerative condition in his right ankle sidelined McNutt the rest of the year. The Buckeyes continued to a national championship, beating Miami 31-24 in overtime of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. McNutt watched from the sidelines.
It didn't seem like it at the time, he said, but looking back the experience opened the possibility for a successful future.
"Through my injury, I had the opportunity to start coaching while I was at Ohio State," said McNutt, Northern Illinois' cornerbacks coach. "That was a great experience because I was coaching my peers, my best friends. We would be on the field coaching one minute then go home and those were my roommates and the guys I hung out with.
"It taught me how to communicate with guys. I couldn't sit out there and yell and scream or curse somebody out because those were my friends. So it taught me how to teach those guys the game a different way, and they responded well to the way I did things."
His playing career over, McNutt was a student assistant under Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel in 2003. He began his coaching career as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator at Washington & Jefferson College the next season. He's spent the past two years as defensive backs coach at Kent State, and before that he was safeties coach with the Cleveland Browns.
But the foundation was laid in Columbus.
"He's very passionate about what he does and brings a lot to the table as far as just his playing experience at Ohio State," NIU defensive coordinator Jay Niemann said. "He's got a great relationship built with the players already. And he's just going to continue to blossom and grow and become a really good coach in this profession."
McNutt had the fortune of learning from some of the best in the business. The most influential, he said, was Mel Tucker, the current defensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tucker coached McNutt when he was a player.
"He was constantly on the field, running around, coaching us," McNutt said. "His attention to detail, he was very fundamentally sound. He was a technician, and that's how I am. I'm a technician when I coach football. Guys will understand exactly what to do and how to do it at a high level."