LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff accepted the 69th Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman during The Home Depot College Football Awards on Thursday night at the Disney Boardwalk.
Scherff, a 6-5, 320-pound senior, became the fourth Hawkeye to win the Outland Trophy after Calvin Jones (1955), Alex Karras (1957) and Robert Gallery (2003). Only players from Nebraska (eight different ones, nine total) and Oklahoma (five) have won more Outland Trophies than Iowa, with Ohio State players also claiming four.
Also in the audience at the Dance Hall were Auburn center Russ Dismukes and Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown, the other two 2014 Outland finalists. Former Pittsburgh offensive lineman and ESPN college football analyst Mark May, the 1980 Outland Trophy winner, made the on-stage presentation to Scherff, the fourth offensive tackle in the last five years to win the award.
Going into Iowa’s Taxslayer Bowl game against Tennessee on Jan. 2, Scherff has started 25 straight games for the Hawkeyes. In all he has played in 43 games and started 35 of them. He has been a strong leader in all four seasons that he has played in Iowa City. Iowa, 7-5, ranks 68th in scoring offense (28.3 ppg) and 66th in total offense (398.3 ypg). At left tackle, he has been rock solid this season for the Hawkeyes who have traditionally produced good offensive linemen.
“Brandon came back for his senior year with a mission to prove, and I think he has done that,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, who was also the Hawkeyes’ head coach when Gallery claimed the honor. “From a leadership standpoint, having a guy play at an NFL level on a college playing field has been important to our football team. The toughness he brings, the attention to detail, the physical nature of his play, he’s pretty special. At the end of the day it is all on the tape. The tape doesn’t lie, he is the best.
“His enjoyment is evident in his approach and how he plays every day. The way he plays in every practice, in games, the way he prepares, the way he trains; if you don’t think this guy is enjoying himself, you’re probably not paying attention.”
Scherff, an all-sports star from Denison, Iowa, a town of a little more than 8,000 people in the western part of the state, actually played quarterback in the lower grades and at the beginning of his high school career. He finally switched to tight end midway through his junior year and then to the offensive line his senior season in preparation to go to Iowa.
“I didn’t come back for my senior year because of the Outland,” said Scherff, who notes that Denison is also the hometown of the late Academy Award-winning actress Donna Reed. “But I started thinking about it toward the end of the season.”
There’s a tie among Scherff, Gallery and also the 1987 Outland Trophy winner, Chad Hennings from Air Force. They are the only three native Iowans to win the Outland. And they have all been coached by Reese Morgan, the current defensive line coach at Iowa and Hennings’ former high school coach. Morgan recruited both Gallery and Scherff to Iowa and was previously the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach.
“I’d say I have no regrets at all,” Scherff said of coming back for his senior season. “I play smarter, faster. And obviously you get more time to study film and just go out and play football.”
The Outland Trophy, which has been awarded annually by the FWAA since 1946, is named after the late John Outland, an All-America lineman at Pennsylvania in the late 1800s. It is the third oldest player award in major-college football behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award.
For the 18th consecutive year, the presentation of the Outland Trophy will occur in Omaha on Jan. 15, 2015, at a banquet sponsored by the Greater Omaha Sports Committee. At the same banquet, Notre Dame’s Ross Browner, the 1976 winner, will receive an Outland Trophy. The Downtown Omaha Rotary Club has provided trophies to Outland winners prior to 1988, the year the FWAA began giving out the trophy.
The first Tom Osborne Legacy Award will also be presented at the dinner. Osborne, the legendary former Nebraska coach, will hand the award off to Milt Tenopir, who coached six Outland winners with the Cornhuskers. The Osborne Legacy Award will recognize a coach or player who made contributions to the Outland Trophy or interior line play in college football; or a former lineman who made great contributions to the game through charity or community work.