By ANDY HEINTZ
Courier sports writer
---- — MARYVILLE, Mo. —The impressive pedigree Clint Utter started while a four-sport athlete at Ottumwa High School, has grown exponentially during his stint as a football player for Northwest Missouri State.
Utter, a native of Bloomberg, has transformed from a greenhorn redshirt freshman wide receiver to a seasoned five-year veteran in the midst of an impressive season final season with the Bearcats venerable football program — Northwest Missouri State is ranked third in NCAA Division 11 and have yet to suffer a loss this season. Utter has made 29 grabs for 510 yards and six touchdowns — he averages about 18 yards per catch — in 10 games to help Northwest Missouri State maintain its untarnished record. Utter caught two of his six touchdowns in a 53-7 trouncing of Nebraska-Kierney and he gained a season-high 160 yards and scored on a season-high 70-yard reception to help the Bearcats defeat 18th-ranked Saginaw Valley 45-24.
Despite his solid statistics, Utter says its the tight-knit character of this Bearcats' squad that has made them so successful this season.
"Everyone is very unselfish," he said. "Unselfish, team first and if your number's called be sure to make the play when its your turn. We aren't a big stat team, but we're still putting up a lot of points and we're still winning and that's what's most important."
In what Utter called a big cycle, the Northwest Missouri State receiver has gone from being a seeker to a giver of advice.
"You start off young and you look to older people for guidance on and off the field," Utter said. "We [the seniors] do our best to lead the way. It's good they [the younger players] respect us enough to look to us for guidance."
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Bearcats are brimming with athleticism.
"We have so many good athletes that everybody has done a good job of spreading the ball out over a lot of different athletes," Utter said.
After redshirting in 2009, Utter saw some action when he first donned the pads and helmet in a game atmosphere for the Bearcats in 2010. The former Ottumwa standout made 13 catches for 15 yards. As as sophomore, Utter's statistics showed marked improvement, as he caught 15 passes for 118 yards . In addition, he scored his first touchdown in week three against Lincoln in a game where he also gained what at that time was a career-high of 61 yards.
Utter said he began to see significant improvement in his play his sophomore season.
"It was my sophomore year when I saw the advantages of summer and winter conditioning," Utter said.
He talked about the toughest part of making the transition from high school to collegiate play.
"In college you really have to manage your time," Utter said. "Football here is almost a job. In high school it's more of an activity, in college it's more like a full-time job."
Utter had a remarkable senior season for the Bulldogs before he moved on to play at the college level. In his senior campaign, he made 28 grabs for 817 yards and 10 touchdowns — he averaged a little over 29 yards per reception. Utter's impressive portfolio of accomplishments that season got him named second-team all-state and helped Ottumwa capture the CIML Metro Conference Championship. Though not quite as stupendous as his senior season, Utter also had an laudable junior year with the Bulldogs that was ornamented by 15 catches and four touchdowns. He also amassed 54 tackles and one interception.
Aside from the his successes on the gridiron, Utter also competed in basketball, baseball and track and field while haunting the halls of Ottumwa. In fact, Utter amassed his share of accomplishments and acclaim on the track. His success on the tracks was good enough to get him inducted into the Ottumwa High School Track Hall of Fame for his performances in the 1,600-meter relay and the 400 meters.
"Part of Clint's high school success was his maturity level," Jim Nickerson, Utter's track and field coach at Ottumwa, said. "His strength development was phenomenal and his speed development was phenomenal. His work ethic in practice was amazing. He used track to make himself that much better as a football player."
As senior, Utter, freshman Zach Messer and fellow seniors Tim Easton and Alex Kelly captured the gold in the Class 4A 4x400 relay at the 2009 Iowa High School State co-ed track meet with a school-record time of 3:18.68. Not only was it the fastest relay time in Class 4A, it was the best time of all four classes.
"He was a big contributor to the success of that team," Nickerson said.
Although Utter said some of his high school memories are a bit foggy, others he remembers fondly.
"When Friday night came around, nothing else seemed to really matter than playing with your buddies you've had all your life. And I think that's pretty special. Those were some fun times."