Give Scherff a rod, rifle, and he'll find a peace of mind

Junior left tackle growing into Iowa's legacy position

Published: August 20 2013 | 3:33 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 7:18 pm in
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IOWA CITY -- Brandon Scherff netted a 40-pound catfish this summer down in Monetzuma. In a round-about way, this makes the Iowa offensive tackle a better football player.

There's a relaxation to the rituals of fishing and hunting. That's significant when you take into account Scherff's day job.

The 6-5, 315-pound junior is Iowa's left offensive tackle. That is the premier spot on Iowa's offense. It's legacy lined with NFL first-round draft picks Robert Gallery, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff. It also includes Marshal Yanda, a third-round pick who helped the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl championship last season.

Job No. 1 for a left tackle is keeping a right-handed quarterback's blindside protected. All three of Iowa's quarterbacks, Jake Rudock, C.J. Beathard and Cody Sokol, are right handed.

Also, there is the fact that the Hawkeyes will try to climb out of the ruins of a 4-8 hangover left from 2012.

So, getting to the river, pond, field or woods, is therapeutic for the Denison native.

"[Fellow offensive linemen] Eric Simmons, Andrew Donnal and Mitch Keppy, that's what we usually do," Scherff said. "We try to go fishing all day after morning workouts. I really haven't brought anyone into it. I probably should. I'll do that next year."

Oh yeah, next year. Scherff threw that in there because it's another potential weight on his shoulders. It's probably nothing compared to the 410 pounds he lifted, three times, in the hang clean this summer, but, with a good, healthy season, it's realistic to think Scherff might have the NFL decision to make after this season. He is a fourth-year junior and will be 22 in December.

"For about 30 seconds [they talked NFL]," head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "As you get down the road, if thereís a discussion to have, weíll have it. Itís realistic to think that could happen. If he ends up in the same seat as Riley or Bryan, thatís a good seat to sit in. You canít really make a bad decision. What I would say the challenge for him is to get in that seat. Thatís the challenge."

So, there's that question. Forty-pound catfish?

"My buddy caught it, I netted it," Scherff said. "We used blue gill."

Iowa has no open hunting season right now, but bow hunting is getting close and . . . "We're running trail cameras and looking forward to that, too," he said.

This is all good stuff. This allows Scherff to concentrate on his job and all the different facets.

"One thing that impresses me about Brandon, he's very much unlike a lot of his peers, in a really positive way," offensive line coach Brian Ferentz said. "He's not glued to his phone, he's not glued to technology. He's out fishing. He's out hunting, he's out doing those things.

"I think at the end of the day, if he's that passionate about doing those things, I think that's a really good thing because I'm not sure he's as exposed to a lot of the distractions as some of the other guys are."

Scherff started his football career at Denison High School as the quarterback. He threw for 1,200 yards his sophomore year, but his body pointed him toward the offensive line -- he was 270 pounds and a QB -- and he knew it.

Once at Iowa, Scherff changed his body from a kind of chubby 310 pounds to an athletic, solid 315 pounds. And now, he's the big dog in the pits of Iowa practices. During last weekend's scrimmage, Scherff hooked up with linebacker Cole Fisher, a 6-2, 228-pounder. The drill ended with Fisher on his back and Scherff strutting back to the O-line.

"He's a scary dude," linebacker James Morris said. "He's an excellent athlete. I don't think people give him enough credit for that. He's an athlete, but I'd say his game is more that of a mauler, that's how I would describe his style.

"Whereas a player like [Michigan OT Taylor] Lewan is truly . . . I don't want to say finesse. Finesse is a poor word to use to describe a tackle, but Lewan is flexible, rangy, athletic. His game is tailored more to those strengths. Brandon is all of those things, but I think his game is more tailored to him being a road grader. It's power. That's one thing that Brandon has, pure power."

Scherff wears a grin when talking about the outdoors. Then, the 4-8 is mentioned. You also have to keep in mind that Scherff's 2012 ended five games early. He started the first seven games and then suffered a broken fibula and dislocated ankle week against Penn State.

While Iowa's medical staff stabilized his ankle, Scherff waved his arms and tried to inject some life into a still Kinnick Stadium.

"He's a tough dude, he's not afraid to get dirty," said defensive end Dominic Alvis, who butts heads every day in practice with Scherff. "It makes me better. He's one of the best I'll face. I'm blessed to play against a guy like that."

Scherff's grin disappears when 4-8 comes up. The happy thoughts are finished. It only takes a few words to get his point across.

Are you eager to get at somebody after 4-8 last year?

"Yes," he said. "Absolutely, yes."

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