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Returning to their roots: McCarney and McNulty return to Iowa this weekend

Returning to their roots: McCarney and McNulty return to Iowa this weekend

2015-09-21 Denton, TX. Andrew McNulty and Coach McCarney at Apogee Stadium University of North Texas. Frank & Sue Mayborn School of Journalism. Photo: Matthew Brown

Returning to their roots: McCarney and McNulty return to Iowa this weekend
September 24
01:33 2015

Reece Waddell | Senior Staff Writer


In the spring of 1971, North Texas head football coach Dan McCarney walked across the stage at Iowa City High School.

Thirty-nine years later, senior quarterback Andrew McNulty walked the same stage in 2010.

Small world.

This Saturday, just two and a half miles away from the high school both men graduated from, the Mean Green football team will take on the University of Iowa in Kinnick Stadium.

“This isn’t Bill Belichick and Tom Brady coming back to Iowa City,” McCarney said. “This is just two Iowa City natives who are proud of their roots. It’s a pretty unique situation where a starting division one quarterback and head coach go back to the same hometown, but at the end of the day, we’re trying to get a win as a big underdog.”

After playing for the Hawkeyes from 1972-1974, McCarney became its assistant coach under former Mean Green coach Hayden Fry from 1977-1989.

He said his time spent at Iowa, both playing and coaching, gave him a unique perspective on the world.

“My time at Iowa definitely enriched my life,” McCarney said. “There are so many great things about it. And if you never worked or lived there, you wouldn’t understand that. But there’s just this incredible loyalty, it’s uncommon and uncompromising.”

A few decades later, McNulty was growing up with a father who also played football at Iowa, exposing the quarterback to the game at an early age.

McNulty said he’s been immersed in the culture of Iowa football for as long as he can remember.

“I grew up watching and I lived within walking distance of [Kinnick Stadium],” McNulty said. “My brother and I, we would go throw the football around in the yard or in the park, whatever. He helped me get better, but he was older. So he had a one-up on me at times.”

Despite the homecoming, McNulty insists on focusing at the task at hand: reversing the 0-2 hole North Texas has dug itself in to start the season.

The fact that the next game on the schedule is a bout with the Hawkeyes is nothing more than a

coincidence to the senior.

“It’s a great opportunity and a great environment to play in,” McNulty said. “But this is just like any other game. And we need to get in the win column. That’s my focus.”

McNulty said he didn’t have a lot of offers coming out of high school, despite winning a state championship his junior year and accumulating more than 1,700 all-purpose yards and 26 total touchdowns his senior year.

McNulty is considered undersized for the quarterback position, listed at 6’1, 211 pounds. He said scouts glossed over him during college recruitment.

Despite the snubs, there was one man who always had faith in the Iowa City native: Iowa City High School head football coach Dan Sabers.

“I certainly knew he was capable of being a quarterback at the next level,” Sabers said. “He didn’t necessarily come out division-one ready. But I knew if he got in the right system, like the one Coach McCarney runs, he could make it happen. Andrew is a winner.”

McCarney and McNulty’s roots run deeper than just their hometown. Sabers said McCarney had a tremendous impact on recruiting McNulty to North Texas and the time he spent in Iowa as a coach helped him form a bond with the quarterback.

“I have such an incredible amount of respect for Coach McCarney,” Sabers said. “Nobody in the nation runs a camp like he does. He’s so committed and it really shows. All those years he was at Iowa and Iowa State, he got to know Andrew’s parents. And without a doubt, I think he’s the reason he went to North Texas.”

The Mean Green leaves for Iowa City on Friday and kickoff with the Hawkeyes is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Fittingly, both men plan to have a larger than normal cheering section in the crowd.

“I had to buy quite a few extra tickets for this one.” McNulty said.

And even though McCarney’s Iowa City roots go back over half a decade, he isn’t giving his extra tickets to just anyone.

“If they want to get in,” he said, “they better be wearing green.”

Featured Image: Andrew McNulty and Coach McCarney pose at Apogee Stadium on Sept. 22. Matt Brown | Staff Photographer

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