IOWA-FOOTBALL

Tyler Linderbaum proves pre-draft doubters wrong with early rookie year success

Raven Moore
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Just as he has done on the high school and college football level, Solon native Tyler Linderbaum has quickly proven his mettle in the NFL.

Starting at center for the 7-4 Baltimore Ravens since the start of the season, Linderbaum has already proved doubters, who believed that he did not have the size to thrive in the pros, wrong.

Linderbaum first began to gain notoriety as a member of the Solon football, wrestling, and track and field teams.

As a senior, he was named a U.S. Army All-American football player and placed third at the state wrestling tournament. At the state track and field meet, he finished second in shot put and third in the discus throw.

Tyler Linderbaum celebrates during a Solon HS football game in 2017

Despite the growth of his national profile, Linderbaum said that his intention was always to stay close to home when he made the jump to the next level. That's how he wound up playing his college ball in Kinnick Stadium with the Hawkeyes.

“It was always kind of the end goal to end up at Iowa,” Linderbaum said. “Just being 15 minutes away was a big thing for me. I only had two scholarship offers, which were from Iowa and Iowa State and I definitely was not an Iowa State fan. So it was an easy decision for me to decide what school I wanted to go to.”

His decision proved to be the right one as he quickly became a key cog along the Hawkeyes' offensive line.

After redshirting his freshman year, he went on to start nearly every game after that, which helped to earn him the title of team captain and win the Roy Carver Most Valuable Player Award as a redshirt junior.

His talents were recognized by the NCAA in 2021 when he was named a unanimous All-American and received the Rimington Trophy, given to the best center in the nation.

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras (7) gets set to take a snap from center Tyler Linderbaum  during the 2021 Vrbo Citrus Bowl

When he announced his decision to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft, there was little doubt that he was one of the best offensive linemen in the class. But standing at just 6-foot-2, he routinely had to answer questions about his size and how he would fare against bigger NFL defensive linemen.

Rather than let the questions bother him, Linderbaum said that he knew that teams were just doing their due diligence.

“It was just a part of the process,” Linderbaum said. “Questions like that were going to come up, but there were other things that they could look at that helped my game. At the end of the day, that is just a process because coaches are trying to figure every little thing out about you. But, football is football and it is all about getting the job done. It does not matter your size or how tall you are.”

That proved true when he was drafted by Baltimore Ravens with the 25th overall pick back in April.

Knowing early on that he was selected with the intention of being the team's Week 1 starter, Linderbaum understood that his top priority was protecting the team's franchise quarterback, Lamar Jackson.

The 2019 MVP and two-time Pro Bowl selection has proven to be one of the most athletic quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen, which Linderbaum said makes it a lot of fun to block for him.

Baltimore Ravens center Tyler Linderbaum blocks Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Arden Key during last week's game

“Here it is a different style of offense, but it is awesome having him behind me and protecting him,” Linderbaum said. “At the end of the day, you just have to get your job done and block for however long you can. We know that 8 [Lamar Jackson] is going to make plays.”

Through the first 11 games of his career, Linderbaum has done a fine job of doing so. According to Pro Football Focus, he has played 714 offensive snaps and has allowed just two sacks, which is tied for the eighth-lowest mark in the league.

As exciting as his transition to the league has been, Linderbaum said that few moments can touch the feeling of getting a road win, which the team has four of so far this season.

“Anytime we go on the road and win, that is a pretty good feeling,” Linderbaum said. “Looking back, I cannot say that there is one play that is my favorite. It is more so the whole experience of getting that victory and experiencing the locker room after a game.”

Linderbaum and the Ravens will have the opportunity to experience that feeling several more times as the team has over a month left in the regular season. They take on the Denver Broncos this weekend, though it's from their home stadium in Baltimore.

While it would be easy to look past those opponents and think solely about the playoffs, they're not guaranteed a spot in a talented AFC field just yet. Linderbaum said that his goal for the rest of the year isn't on the playoffs, instead, it's to focus on getting better each week.

“I really just want to focus on one week at a time,” Linderbaum said. “You look around the league and there are games where teams are supposed to win, but they do not win them. No game is going to be easy and we know that, so we have to keep practicing to get better. Each week our focus is to take things one game at a time and I have that same focus.”