Brown: Brandon Scherff also wins with a humble approach to life
IOWA CITY, Ia. – The essence of Brandon Scherff comes in these words from his football coach at Iowa, Kirk Ferentz.
"He doesn't act like he's anything special," Ferentz said.
Scherff is something special in the eyes of NFL franchises. One of them will claim him in the first round of Thursday's NFL Draft. Scherff is a consensus all-American offensive tackle and an Outland Trophy winner. Plenty of reasons there to pat yourself on the back.
But he's remained humble and true to his Iowa roots. Scherff says he'd rather spend Thursday in his hometown of Denison, with all his friends, than attending the draft in person.
"In a sense, it's like a Super Bowl for us," said Denison High School activities director Dave Wiebers, who was Scherff's high school football coach. "People want to celebrate with Brandon as much as he wants to celebrate with them. And I'm pretty sure people wouldn't be following him like they are if he wasn't such a great kid."
During his speech at the Outland Trophy dinner Jan. 15 in Omaha, Neb., Scherff asked everyone who had traveled from Denison to stand up and be recognized. It was a moment, Ferentz said, that tells you a lot about Scherff.
"He did a great job there," Ferentz said. "He just handles himself really well. He's just a great representative, not only for our program and the athletic department, but the entire university. As he moves into his adult life now, I think he really represents out state in a way everyone can be proud of, like Zach Johnson does."
Scherff stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 320 pounds. Johnson is 5-10, 165.
"Half his size," Johnson joked.
But Johnson is 100 percent humble. He's remained that way, even though the 2007 Masters champion has become the greatest golfer this state has ever produced. Johnson lives in Georgia now, but he'll always call Cedar Rapids home.
Guys such as Scherff and Johnson are in an exclusive club, cut from the same cloth. I'd put Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg in there, too. He played 10 seasons in the NBA, then came home to take Iowa State's basketball program to great heights. And he's as approachable now as he was as a basketball star at Ames High School, when I first met him.
Wiebers said that Scherff the all-American is the same kid who played quarterback for him as a sophomore.
"That's a great attribute of his," Wiebers said. "And it's a great reflection of Iowa football. A great reflection of small-town Iowa. A great reflection of Denison, that we are teaching kids the right values and giving them the work ethic that they're going to take with them the rest of their life."
Wiebers said the Scherff story starts with his parents, Bob and Cindy, who instilled the values that make him a source of pride everywhere his career has taken him.
"Would Brandon Scherff be successful if he wasn't a great athlete and an NFL football player?" Wiebers asked. "There's no doubt he would be, because of those core values he got from mom and dad, school and friends."
Thursday will be a pinch-me moment for Wiebers. Scherff has invited his old coach to attend the draft in person.
"Not in my dreams could I imagine I'd be sitting there watching one of our former football players be drafted in the first round," Wiebers said.
Nice guys do finish first.
Or, in this case, the first round.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.