116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Want to compliment Tyler Linderbaum? Good luck.
“You can never say anything good about the guy because he’ll just tell you to be quiet,” quarterback Spencer Petras said.
Linderbaum can’t quite hush every compliment about him, though, as one of the highest-rated offensive linemen in the country.
Pro Football Focus, which scouts and grades NFL and college football players, ranked Linderbaum as the best center in college football in 2020 and through the first eight weeks of 2021. He was fifth in PFF’s 2019 rankings.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranked the junior center on Oct. 26 as the 12th-best prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft.
“Linderbaum is one of the best center prospects in recent memory,” Kiper wrote. “He can do everything, and he excels as a puller to either side. He's a fantastic run blocker.”
He’s fast, too, at least by offensive lineman standards.
“It’s absurd,” running back Tyler Goodson said. “It’s not normal for linemen to move like that. He’s wired different. He’s a different type of dude.”
When Nico Ragaini had a 44-yard touchdown reception against No. 4 Penn State, the 290-pound center outran most of his teammates to celebrate with Ragaini.
“He’s a freak,” fellow lineman Kyler Schott said. “I was running my tail off, and I was like 30 yards behind him.”
It wasn’t the first time Linderbaum showed off his speed. Last year against Wisconsin, Goodson broke away from the Wisconsin defense for an 80-yard run.
The speedy Goodson looked up at the Kinnick Stadium video board as he was running and saw Linderbaum keeping up with him.
“I should have just gave the ball to him so he could score the touchdown,” Goodson said.
Defensive line coach Kelvin Bell said Linderbaum plays with the aggressiveness of a defensive player.
“There's nothing that's just good enough for Tyler,” Bell said. “He's trying to punish you.”
Bell recruited him out of Solon as a defensive lineman. He still remembers one of Linderbaum’s games against Iowa City Regina.
“He was a monster on defense, and I also saw him snap the ball,” Bell said. “I thought about, ‘Well, maybe he could play center, too.’”
He moved from defensive line to center at Iowa after the 2018 season.
Linderbaum has anchored an offensive line that otherwise entered this season with little experience. Iowa’s top left tackle, right guard and right tackle all made their first career starts in 2021.
“The challenge would be a lot more without a guy like Tyler Linderbaum in the middle kind of steadying the ship,” offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said.
Goodson and the offensive line are not the only people to benefit from Linderbaum’s veteran presence.
“When a guy like that is as smart as him and communicates as well as he does, it makes my job easier,” Petras said.
Iowa’s fifth-year offensive coordinator, Ferentz said what sets Linderbaum apart goes beyond what the 6-foot-3 center can do physically.
“All the physical stuff, I think that’s for anybody to see,” Ferentz said. “Who he is as a person when he shows up every day regardless and goes to work and does his absolute best to be his best, that’s what makes him special.”
The quiet captain used his increased public profile to help others earlier in the month. He sold T-shirts to raise money for the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in the week leading up to the Purdue game.
He initially set a goal for $15,000, but he quickly surpassed that, so the goal became $25,000.
He exceeded that, too, raising about $28,000 going into the last day of the sale.
“It puts things in perspective. It’s bigger than a game,” Linderbaum said. “We love to go out there and compete, but there’s a lot of other challenging things for individuals out there, so I’m just trying to do my part and help out with what I can.”
Linderbaum also spends extra time with his fellow offensive linemen later in the afternoon to prepare them for the upcoming matchup.
“He’ll meet with the whole starting five after whatever we’re doing and stay for 30 minutes or an hour just to make sure they know what they’re doing and know who to go to so they can be comfortable come Saturday,” Goodson said. “Just taking those guys up in his wing.”
His attention to detail extends beyond football. Petras has been roommates with Linderbaum the last two years.
“He’s a really good roommate,” Petras said. “He’d probably say I’m a bad roommate just because I’m a little messy — messier than him. … He like rearranges his room every two weeks, three weeks.”
Those frequent furniture rearrangements taught Petras where Linderbaum got his work ethic.
“His dad will come over — because he lives in Solon — and help us clean stuff up or move, things like that,” Petras said. “He’s like a little worker bee when he comes over. He’s just nonstop, so (it) must run in the family I guess.”
His teammates aren’t afraid to give their star center a hard time.
“I’m always giving him a hard time if he makes a mistake,” Schott said. “’Like Tyler Linderbaum? No way.’”
Many people, including Petras, have called for Linderbaum to be a candidate for the Heisman Trophy, which goes to the best college football player, with variations of #LinderbaumforHeisman or #Lindy4Heisman on Twitter.
“Everyone was chanting it in like the team room and stuff like that,” fullback Monte Pottebaum said.
An offensive lineman has never won the Heisman Trophy.
If the voting body was his fellow offensive players, he’d win in a heartbeat.
“If there’s ever going to be a lineman to win it, it should be him,” Schott said.
“I’d vote for him,” Petras added.
Just don’t tell Linderbaum.
“He gets kind of awkward when you try to be like, ‘Hey you’re going to get this award, you’re going to do this,’” Pottebaum said.
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