Brown: Brandon Scherff moving to football's main stage
OMAHA, Neb. – Brandon Scherff was in sixth grade when he got his first job at Evergreen Acres, a Christmas farm in his home town of Denison. He worked there through high school, and the most he ever made was $7.50 an hour.
That's about to change, with authority. Scherff, who collected his Outland Trophy at a dinner Thursday night, will soon be paid handsomely to do something he loves. Play football. He's expected to become the seventh first-round NFL pick Kirk Ferentz has coached at Iowa.
"I don't know where I'm going to go," said Scherff, a Minnesota Vikings fan. "People ask me that all the time. I'll be fortunate and happy, wherever I go."
Scherff collected his Outland hardware in front of family and four of the most influential people in his Iowa football career: Kirk Ferentz, offensive line coach Brian Ferentz, line coach Reese Morgan and strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
"Coach Morgan is the first guy that saw me, the one that started the recruiting process," Scherff said. "Coach Ferentz is the one who gave me the opportunity at Iowa. Brian was the one who yelled at me each day and kept me on track to become a better player. Coach Doyle changed me from a 320-pound chubby dude to an all right football player. I wouldn't be here without them."
Kirk Ferentz called Tuesday's award dinner "a celebration of an unbelieveably great career. Obviously he did a great job on the field. But I think the thing that all of us appreciate about Brandon is the guy that he is and the person he is, and the attitude he brought every day. I've never met a guy more appreciative, more humble. And if anybody had a reason to maybe feel a little cocky, that would be him."
The 2015 NFL Draft is April 30-May 2 in Chicago. Scherff, a consensus all-American and Iowa's fourth Outland winner, has hired Neil Cornrich as his agent. Cornrich also represents Kirk Ferentz. Scherff said he's heard people mention him playing left tackle, right tackle, even guard in the NFL.
ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., had Scherff going to the New York Giants with the ninth pick in a mock draft released Thursday. But to my way of thinking, Scherff's most enduring quality is that he's remained a small-town kid at heart.
"You've got to remember where you came from, and you can never let that go," Scherff said.
Some day he might become the most famous person to come out of Denison. Right now he still trails actress Donna Reed.
"She was a good actress," Scherff said. "If I ever do that, it will be a great honor. It's a wonderful life back there."
The fact that Scherff skipped a chance to be a first-round NFL pick after his junior year because he wanted to get better also gives a hint why this gentle giant is successful.
"The reasons he gave, to improve and get better, are rare and noble in this day and age," Morgan said.
Guys like Scherff, it seems, are why you coach. Morgan got emotional when I asked him if that was true.
"This really is why you coach," Morgan said. "It's a tremendous profession. It isn't about the money. It's about the relationships."
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.