IOWA CITY — Brandon Scherff has grown into the idea of adding his name to the long list of success stories the Iowa football program has enjoyed at left tackle.
As he works his way through summer drills, the player on top of the preseason depth chart is a somewhat unlikely candidate to step into a spot where Riley Reiff, Bryan Bulaga and Robert Gallery have thrived over the past decade.
Some grew into the role from a tight end’s position.
Others played the line throughout their careers.
Scherff, however, is a former quarterback who passed for more than 1,200 yards as a sophomore at Denison High School in west-central Iowa, but he eventually found his way to the line as he grew.
Now standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 310 pounds, Scherff said few of his teammates believe that he ever lined up behind center.
“Especially the new guys, they find it pretty hard to believe,” Scherff said. “None of the incoming freshmen believe me.”
Scherff, however, believes he is ready to step into the position Reiff filled before the Detroit Lions made him the 23rd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
As he prepares for his sophomore season at Iowa, Scherff has three starts on his resumé after opening at left guard last season as a redshirt freshman.
“It was a good experience, being out there and getting a chance to understand what this level of competition is all about,” Scherff said. “It’s something you can prepare for, but to actually be on the field in a competitive situation is experience that you can’t gain in the film room or in practice.”
Scherff also spent a lot of time watching Reiff work, gaining an understanding of how he prepared and how he was able to become the 12th offensive lineman in Kirk Ferentz’s 13 seasons at Iowa to be selected in the NFL Draft.
In addition to observing, Scherff said he asked plenty of questions.
“Whenever you get a chance to be around a player like that, you want to get as much from it as you can,” Scherff said. “I didn’t hesitate to ask questions and I tried to soak up as much as I could because he competed at such a high level.”
Scherff learned on a daily basis, understanding that one of the potential benefits of personal growth would be the potential opportunity to slide into the left tackle’s position this fall.
He said he frequently watched film with Reiff, an experience that both helped him in his own situation at left guard and gain a better understanding of how Reiff approached things from the tackle position.
“He was able to critique what I would do and what he would do and that’s helped me a lot,” Scherff said. “He told me to approach every play like it’s your last.”
Reiff encouraged Scherff to play the position with passion.
“He talked a lot about playing tough and playing through to the whistle, finishing every block and making the most of every snap,” Scherff said.
Those ideals form the foundation of how Scherff approaches the game.
“There is a tradition on good line play at Iowa and while we lost a few starters from last season (Iowa must replace three offensive linemen), the expectations for how we execute do not go away,” Scherff said. “We plan to continue to play at high level, just like the guys who came before us. That’s part of playing football at Iowa.”