IOWA CITY, Iowa – Brandon Scherff garnered national attention in the most unlikely way imaginable – at least for an Iowa player.
Scherff went viral on Twitter.
Coach Kirk Ferentz doesn't even allow his players to use the social media site. But Hawkeyes strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle posted a video last month of Scherff performing three lifts of 443 pounds from his knees to his shoulders as teammates watched in amazement.
It was a 30-second glimpse into why many consider Scherff the best lineman in the country.
The 6-foot-5, 320-pound senior's blend of strength and athleticism is why he's expected to be the third Iowa tackle in 6 years to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. Scherff was expected to be a first-rounder after last season, but he surprised many by returning to school.
"I thought he was one of the better players you could find in college football a year ago. And we expect him to be a better player this year, and I think he expects that from himself," Ferentz said. "He's already awfully good, but I think he's got a chance to be one of the best players to ever play here."
Those who know Scherff best aren't surprised at how good he's become. Physical gifts aside, he has an intense work ethic, too.
Scherff grew up in Denison, a small town in western Iowa, playing nearly every sport his high school offered.
He was an all-state baseball player, an all-conference basketball player, and a state champion in the shot put. He even earned a varsity letter for tennis as a freshman, but football was always Scherff's future.
Scherff was so athletic that Denison used him at quarterback as a sophomore, and as a junior he caught five touchdown passes. He eventually grew into a star lineman, and by the start of 2012, he was Iowa's starting tackle.
Scherff broke his right fibula in a blowout loss to Penn State midway through that season, an injury that contributed to Iowa's late-year collapse. He bounced back in 2013, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors from league coaches.
"As strong as he is, the most impressive qualities when you look at him from a strength and conditioning standpoint is how athletic he is and how well he runs," said Doyle, who noted that Scherff's "hang clean" weights were the highest in his 16 years at Iowa.
Scherff played so well as a junior that nearly everyone assumed he'd jump to the NFL. But Scherff was always leaning toward staying for his senior season, and he confirmed that decision after a brief chat with Kirk and Brian Ferentz, the team's offensive line coach.
The move thrilled Scherff's head coach, who half-jokingly called him the most important recruit of the class of 2014.
"I can improve so much in all aspects. Run blocking, pass blocking. Just trying to become a better leader and a better player overall," Scherff said.
Scherff's progression from small-town recruit to a potential All-American will long be used as an example of why Iowa is one of the nation's top developmental programs.
But according to Brian Ferentz, Scherff's success is largely a product of his own skills and drive.
"For me to sit up there and pretend that I've coached him to do anything is kind of silly. Because, with all due respect to my wife, I think Brandon would be the same player if she was coaching him – and this isn't what she does for a living," Brian Ferentz said. "A lot of it is physical, and what he's been blessed with. But the other part of that is the way he's embraced the work that it takes."