Iowa's Scherff grew up a Vikings fan Rick Brown/The Des Moines Register
CHICAGO – When a video landed on the Internet this summer of Iowa's Brandon Scherff doing the hang clean — three reps of an astounding 443 pounds — it went viral. Several teams in advance of the NFL Draft asked the Outland Trophy winner about it, too.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said that Scherff has "freakish explosion," on the field. Ferentz also said that Scherff's upper body strength isn't the key to his success
"It's not necessarily his upper body," Ferentz said. "There's nothing off the charts there. That's probably his worst testing point if you could find one, his bench press. But I always kind of felt like that might be the least important."
The key to the consensus all-American's success comes from the waist down.
"Just his torso, his lower body, his explosion and strength there, that's really where a football player's success comes from," Ferentz said. "Brandon certainly excels in that area. He came with a pretty good basis. He's competitive. He works like a dog, so he's really improved in all areas in (strength coach) Chris Doyle's program."
Believe it or not: Scherff had meniscus surgery Sept. 9, returned to practice a day later and played the following Saturday against Iowa State.
NFL teams found that hard to believe. Scherff visited with 23 different franchises during the NFL Combine, and his quick recovery came up time and time again.
"A lot of them said, 'I think there's a misprint here, it says you practiced one day after surgery,' " Scherff said. "I said, 'no, that's right.' They said, 'We've never heard of that happening before.' I think that helped show that I'll do whatever it takes to get back on the field."
Scherff said he didn't feel like he was back to 100 percent physically until January or February.
Chubby dude: Ferentz has success taking undersized prospects, turning them over to Doyle and turning them into Big Ten linemen.
There are two exceptions to that. Scherff and defensive tackle Carl Davis are the only Ferentz recruits in his 17 seasons as head coach that reported north of 300 pounds. Scherff said he was a "chubby dude" when he first walked into Doyle's weight room.
"I was 324 pounds," Scherff said. "Three or four weeks later I was back to 300 pounds. I didn't work out until I got to Coach Doyle. He helped me lose the weight that I needed to lose, and to start building myself up. He pushed me to do things I had never thought I'd be able to."
Getting face time with Doyle wasn't always pleasant, Scherff said.
"It would be, 'Oh, geez, another day,' " Scherff said of his freshman season. "But by my fifth year of camp it was just another day and I was pretty happy and excited about it."
Say what?: Scherff's last name has been mispronounced a time or 10. A reporter from New York asked him Wednesday what the proper pronunciation was.
"Sheriff," Brandon said. "Like the cop."
Secret weapon: Gil Brandt was vice president of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1988. Now 82, Brandt still follows the draft closely working for NFL Media. And he likes Scherff as a prospect.
"I think he's a tremendously well-coached football player that has a lot of skills," Brandt said. "He stayed in school for his final year, and he worked under Doyle, who is as good as they come. And little Ferentz is half as good as his dad, he's really a good coach."
For the record, "little Ferentz" is Iowa offensive line coach Brian Ferentz.