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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 22, 2017

Riley McCarron is chasing NFL roster spot

Undrafted rookie receiver from Iowa making waves in Texans' camp
By Mike Hlas, The Gazette | Aug 11, 2017

The last former Iowa wide receiver to catch a pass in an NFL regular-season game was Tim Dwight in the 2007 season.

Many tight ends from Iowa have caught many passes in that time. Dallas Clark, Tony Moeaki, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Scott Chandler, Brandon Myers. I’m probably forgetting someone.

But wide receivers? Nope.

Wouldn’t it be something if Riley McCarron were the one to break that drought?

McCarron has plenty of work ahead to make the active roster of the Houston Texans as an undrafted player, but he’s already gone further than many would have guessed.

He has had a good training camp to date, and he’s certainly getting a chance to show his chops.

Wednesday night, McCarron had a catch for 18 yards, a kickoff return for 15 yards, and a punt return for 1 yard in the Texans’ 27-17 loss at Carolina.

“Deshaun Watson’s 18-yard pass to undrafted receiver Riley McCarron looks similar to what the two have done in practice,” Texans writer Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com tweeted during the game. Watson, of course, is the Heisman Trophy runner-up from national-champion Clemson.

McCarron, on the other hand, is the 5-foot-9, 185-pound former walk-on from Dubuque who stepped up in a major way for the Hawkeyes last fall when No. 1 receiver Matt VandeBerg’s season was cut short because of a broken foot.

McCarron finished the season with a team-high 42 receptions for 517 yards and four touchdowns, and he returned a punt 55 yards for a TD at Illinois. He did a great job.

Here’s what John Harris wrote last week on the Texans’ website: “So, we were standing nearly directly behind the offense when Watson was taking reps.

“I love being up there because I can see nearly everything. The offense was working away from us as Watson dropped to throw.

“When he let the ball go, it didn’t look, at first, like it was going to anyone. He just seemed to be throwing into a vast, blank open space.

“Then, out of nowhere (or so it seemed), McCarron moved right into the space and made the catch for a first down.

“To see that ball just headed for nothing-land, then to have McCarron darts in to make the catch, was really cool. it epitomized the “throwing a guy open” concept that analysts talk about all the time in reference to quarterbacks.”

McCarron, obviously, is a slot receiver. His position coach was a 5-9 guy who happens to be one of the most-prolific slot receivers of modern times.

Wes Welker had 903 catches. Jeepers!

Well, there still is another three weeks of camp, but this will be an interesting story to follow.

We know rookies C.J. Beathard, Jaleel Johnson, Desmond King and George Kittle of the Hawkeyes will make their teams’ rosters.

But undrafted players like McCarron, or Cole Croston and LeShun Daniels at New England, or Marshall Koehn at Minnesota, those would be great stories if they are in uniform for Week 1.

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