Iowa football's ultra-competitive Tyler Linderbaum stiff-arms NFL plans, media attention

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

Get ready for some television graphics during Iowa football broadcasts this fall that feature wordings such as “Tyler and Tyler” or “Tyler Times Two.” Over 12 games, there are likely to be many variations.

The Hawkeyes’ top two players a year ago were arguably center Tyler Linderbaum and running back Tyler Goodson. The Tylers have more in common than their first names and the fact they’re returning to starring roles for the 2021 Hawkeyes, according to Brian Ferentz.

“I don’t want to put pressure on guys. But boy, I’d be really disappointed if they did not play at a high level,” Iowa’s fifth-year offensive coordinator said last week. “And that would certainly surprise me (if they didn’t).

“What impresses me about those two guys is that they’re improvement driven. They are not satisfied with their performance on any level. They’re trying to get better. And I think that’s why they’re good players.”

Of the Tylers, one (Linderbaum) met the media Tuesday for the first time in 2021. The other (Goodson) had a class conflict, but we’ll likely hear from the reigning first-team all-Big Ten Conference running back following Saturday’s open spring practice at Kinnick Stadium. Gates will open at 8:30 a.m., with practice action beginning at 9:30.

More:Leistikow's observations from Iowa football open practice, including where the quarterbacks stand

Tyler Linderbaum (65) is shown with fellow offensive lineman Kyler Schott (64) at Iowa's April 17 open practice. At left is Cody Ince, who is out for the spring but expected to be a leading candidate at right tackle in the fall for the Hawkeyes.

Tyler Linderbaum: 'I wasn't interested' in 2021 NFL Draft

Linderbaum was one of three Rimington Trophy finalists last season as college football’s most dominant center. He easily could’ve turned pro; a mid-second-round pick (which he was projected to be) is in line for a four-year rookie contract worth between $6 million and $7 million. But instead of assuredly hearing his name called in the NFL Draft (which begins Thursday), Linderbaum was content to be leading the Hawkeyes' offensive line into another season.

"I wasn't interested," Linderbaum flatly said Tuesday.

More:Leistikow: The 3 most noteworthy things we learned from Ken O'Keefe, Phil Parker, Raimond Braithwaite

The Solon native was so confident in returning to Iowa City that he didn't even request feedback from the College Advisory Committee, a service that helps draft-eligible underclassmen know where they stand in the eyes of NFL executives and scouts.

“I wanted to compete with my buddies," Linderbaum said. "There’s a lot more to do, a lot more to improve on. ... I was coming back for sure."

As you can tell, Linderbaum wasn't wild about delving too deeply into this subject.

More:Iowa's Daviyon Nixon, Tyler Linderbaum named finalists for top football awards

He seemed more focused on stiff-arming media attention that will continue to come his way.

“A big thing for me is just to focus on the program and my teammates," Linderbaum said. "I really am not interested in what's going around outside, what media are saying, what other people are saying."

What Linderbaum's return to Iowa football means

Linderbaum’s return to Iowa for a fourth season is unfolding as a wonderful gift to head coach Kirk Ferentz's program that keeps on giving.

No. 1, he’ll continue to deliver his tenacious blocking style for a Goodson-led running back that took a big jump forward in yards per carry last season (4.62, the program’s highest since 2008).

No. 2, he’s best friends with presumed No. 1 quarterback Spencer Petras. Their continued connection and growth in understanding the Iowa offense and opposing defenses can only help.

"He's improvement driven. You can’t ask for a better leader than Spencer Petras," Linderbaum said.

More:Leistikow: Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras sees benefits of studying Alabama's Mac Jones

No. 3, Linderbaum is … actually leading offensive-line meetings. That’s a style that the other two offensive linemen speaking Tuesday shared about new position coach George Barnett. They described Barnett as a less-intense offensive line coach than predecessor Tim Polasek but also very knowledgeable and willing to lean on Linderbaum's authority.

“He’ll point something out that coach Barnett doesn’t see,” left tackle Jack Plumb said. “… In the huddle, too, he’s always talking about little things and the alignments of the defense to help us get an edge pre-snap.”

Kyler Schott was lined up as the starting right guard, one spot to Linderbaum’s right, during the April 17 open practice. Schott and Linderbaum are the old guys in a room of young prospects with immense upside.

More:Leistikow: Projecting Iowa's football starters for the 2021 season

Though Schott (at North Linn High School) grinned talking about defeating Linderbaum (of Solon) on the prep wrestling mat, Schott defers to Linderbaum as the leader of the line.

“He’s just one of the most competitive dudes I’ve ever met, whether it’s a board game or it’s football,” Schott said. “He doesn’t want to lose. He hates losing.

“He comes in every day, and he wants to get better because he doesn’t want to lose anything.”

More:After emerging in shortened 2020 season, Sam LaPorta aims to be Iowa's 'next great tight end'

That's Linderbaum; one half of Tyler Times Two in the Hawkeyes' 2021 offense.

His mentality is that there are still four more months until the Sept. 5 opener against Indiana. That's 120-plus days that he can continue to improve.

“Just trying to be more consistent. Put guys on the line in better positions. Understanding the game plan and things like that," Linderbaum said. "Come Saturdays, I want to be most prepared as possible, mentally and physically."