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Pat Harty: Scherff has bright future, with Hawks and beyond

[ 0 ] June 22, 2014 |

You’d never get Brandon Scherff to admit it, but he’s on the verge of doing something truly spectacular for himself and for the Iowa football program.

Stay healthy and perform up to his vast potential this coming season, and the 6-foot-5, 320-pound Scherff undoubtedly would become the fourth offensive left tackle who has played under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

Scherff would join a group that currently has Robert Gallery, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff sharing space. He would gain instant wealth and would be the latest example of how Iowa develops quality offensive linemen.

Just don’t bother telling him that.

“I just worry about myself and just try to get better,” Scherff told reporters Wednesday.

Scherff has a tendency to use the line over and over about just trying to get better. It’s his way of dealing with the spotlight and his way of tempering expectations. He already has enough people telling him how good he is, including his offensive line coach, Brian Ferentz, that Scherff feels no need to pat himself on the back.

And that’s a good sign.

“I’ve told them that I haven’t done anything this year,” Scherff said when asked how he responds to the growing praise. “I have to focus on trying to make other people better, as well as myself.”

What’s interesting is that his three celebrated predecessors at left tackle handled the spotlight in a similar fashion. It was never about them, especially in the case of the soft-spoken Reiff, who once stopped an interview with reporters shortly after it had started simply because he had nothing else to say.

Reiff wasn’t rude or standoffish, he just didn’t like talking about himself or to reporters in general. He was a quiet, shy young man who also was an outstanding football player.

Scherff is more outgoing than Reiff, but that’s not saying much. Ask Scherff about his passion for hunting and fishing, and he has plenty to say. Ask him about his status as a rising star in college football, and he just wants to get better and live in the moment.

“I think it was the way I was raised,” said Scherff, who grew up in Denison. “But like I said, ‘We haven’t done anything. I haven’t done anything.’

“So we just have to focus on taking care of our business in the summer and then in camp and then we’ll go out and play our first game.”

Unlike a running back, whose best plays usually make the highlight reel, an offensive lineman mostly grinds away in obscurity.

Except during film sessions. That’s when Scherff’s dominance gets noticed.

Iowa running back Mark Weisman still gets excited when talking about a block Scherff made against former Ohio State star linebacker Ryan Shazier last season. Shazier was arguably the Big Ten’s best linebacker a year ago. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft with the 15th pick overall.

“I don’t see it during the game, and then after I see him take guys for about 3 yards down field,” Weisman said. “Last year, I know he took Shazier for a ride. I don’t know where he was drafted, but he’s an NFL player. So he’s one of the best, if not the best left tackle.”

Brian Ferentz helped to fuel Scherff’s hype in April by calling him the best offensive lineman in college football. Scherff responded predictably by saying he appreciated the praise, but that he just wanted to get better.

SportsIllustrated.com also climbed on Scherff’s bandwagon by publishing a 2015 NFL mock draft in which he was the fifth player taken overall.

Reaching center stage hasn’t been easy for Scherff. He missed the final five games in 2012 with a leg injury and then watched Iowa unravel, finishing 4-8 overall. He knows firsthand how thin the line is between success and failure, and that sometimes you just have to be lucky.

Scherff is just what Kirk Ferentz wants him to be as a player on and off the field: Adhere to a philosophy that says it doesn’t matter what you’ve accomplished or what people think you’re capable of accomplishing; all that matters is working hard each day to get better.

It’s hard to argue with Kirk Ferentz’s philosophy because although some fans continue to wonder why he doesn’t sign heralded offensive linemen on a more regular basis, Ferentz continues to develop them on a somewhat regular basis.

Entering his 16th season as the Iowa coach, Ferentz is close to producing on average one left tackle who gets selected in the first round of the NFL draft every four years, assuming Scherff completes the process. That’s quite an accomplishment when you think about it.

To put that in perspective, Iowa has only had two quarterbacks selected in the NFL draft since 1990 and just five receivers, with none going higher than the fourth round.

Left tackle is considered the glamor position on the offensive line because it’s the position that protects a right-handed quarterback’s blindside. Nobody, probably, was more relieved than Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock, who throws right-handed, when Scherff decided in December to return for his senior season instead of leaving early for the NFL.

In explaining his decision, Scherff said he wanted another year to get better. Imagine that.

It was more than that, though.

Scherff still wanted to be a Hawkeye and a student-athlete. And he still wanted to battle in practice against the likes of fellow rising defensive star Carl Davis, who at 6-5 and 315 pounds, is an imposing figure. Davis was projected as the 11th pick overall in the same mock draft by SportsIllustrated.com and is ranked by NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper as the second-best senior defensive tackle in college football.

“That’s a great thing; you’re going against the best,” Davis said of practicing with Scherff. “Iron sharpens iron. You can only get better.”

For Scherff, it’s all about getting better, while staying the same as a person. We often hear athletes say that success won’t change them, only to see it change them.

But with Scherff, the only thing that seems to have changed since he entered college is his body. Remember, we’re talking about a kid who played quarterback as a high school sophomore.

“He’s the same,” Weisman said. “He still loves to hunt and fish. He’s a great guy, a great teammate.”

He’s also Iowa’s next great left tackle, the fourth piece to a prestigious puzzle. Just don’t remind him.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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