Brown: NFL? Brandon Scherff not focusing on that yet

Rick Brown

The last time Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff and Iowa took the field, they fell to Nebraska in overtime. When Scherff takes the field for the Hawkeyes on Jan. 2 against Tennessee, it will be for the final time.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Brandon Scherff skipped graduation ceremonies last weekend.

"I thought we were going to have practice, so I told my family not to come up," said Scherff, Iowa's consensus all-American right tackle and winner of the Outland Trophy. "But we didn't have practice. So I went deer hunting."

Scherff didn't get a deer, but he did earn his degree. And soon he'll be graduating to the NFL. But one thing is holding back the sure-fire first-round draft pick. It's a Jan. 2 game against Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl.

"No time for that," Scherff said of the NFL. "After the season's over, then we'll work on that."

Single-minded focus has been a Scherff trait since he arrived on campus from Denison. He could have been a first-round pick after his junior season, but elected to come back. Now he'll leave as one of the most decorated players in Iowa history.

"I'm sure, in the back of his mind, he believed some of those things were possible," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "And to become a consensus all-American is really a tough thing to do. It's tough to get your picture up on that wall."

The wall Ferentz speaks of is the west wall of the multi-purpose room on the second level of the new football operations center. There, Scherff's portrait will soon be hung with the program's other 21 consensus all-Americans who preceded him.

"It's a real credit to him," said Ferentz, who has coached seven of those consensus all-Americans. "He just works so hard at it. And he's got some rare ability and skill set, too. But his attitude is what is so impressive to me."

Scherff arrived at 310 pounds. But he reshaped and transformed those pounds on a 6-foot-5 frame under the eyes of strength coach Chris Doyle with the single-minded goal of being the best he could be. He changed his diet, and embraced the weight room.

His goals have always been team-first. So getting him to talk about his pile of awards — the Big Ten also named him the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year — is about as easy as moving him off the line of scrimmage.

But in a rare moment of candor, Scherff admits that individually he accomplished much of what he set out to do at the start of the season.

"Winning the Outland, that was one of my goals," Scherff said. "Any time you can achieve one of your goals, it's a good sign for yourself. Now as an offensive line, we're going out to show what we're about this last game."

His last game as a Hawkeye.

"It's going to mean a lot," Scherff said. "That's our goal, to send the seniors out right with a 'W,' then springboard the underclassmen into the 2015 season."

Heading into the bowl game with a 7-5 record, this has not been the kind of season Scherff and his fellow seniors had hoped for. Winning would be a fond farewell.

"Every time you get a win, you have fun in the locker room," Scherff said. "That's the last memory you want to have, singing the fight song in the locker room. That's what we want to do."

Scherff spoke near three empty trophy cases. Floyd of Rosedale (Minnesota), the Cy-Hawk Trophy (Iowa State), the Heartland Trophy (Wisconsin) and the Heroes Trophy (Nebraska) all went to the other team.

There's plenty of room for a replica of Scherff's Outland Trophy, which will be presented Jan. 15 in Omaha, Neb. And plenty of room for the trophy that goes to the winner of the TaxSlayer Bowl.

One more game. And then the NFL, and the next chapter of Scherff's football life. Is he ready?

"I think so," Scherff said. "But we've got to take care of this first. We've got to get a trophy back this year."

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.