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IOWA CITY — Kirk Ferentz has seen his fair share of offensive linemen hear their name called in the NFL Draft.
Eighteen to be exact in Ferentz’s 23 years as Iowa football’s head coach.
He doesn’t have any doubt about the future of the soon-to-be 19th guy on that list, Tyler Linderbaum.
“He'll be a guy, in my mind, that's going to play the next 10, 12 years — play really well,” Ferentz said Saturday after Iowa’s open practice.
Linderbaum, a projected first-round pick in this week’s draft, has learned from two head football coaches in the last eight years — Ferentz since 2018 and Kevin Miller at Solon High School in the four years before that.
Based on their experiences, both of them spoke highly of what an NFL team will be getting from the Solon native.
“He hasn’t cut corners,” said Miller, the former Solon head coach, on The Gazette’s Hawk Off the Press podcast this week. “He’s truly bought into the process of just fully immersing in improving in every area.”
Along with the obvious physical aspects of playing football, Miller also has seen Linderbaum grow mentally, intellectually and spiritually.
“That's what I think I'm most proud of, and I’m sure a lot of his relatives are as well,” Miller said.
Miller said Linderbaum was “actually kind of a jokester.” That didn’t take away from his competitiveness, though.
Take a game of golf last year as an example. Linderbaum and his father recently played golf with Miller and his son. Considering Miller was a former basketball player at Loras College and his son, Cam, won an FCS title at North Dakota State, the Linderbaum duo was certainly going against an athletic twosome.
“You get to see the true competitor come out,” Kevin Miller said of Linderbaum. “It always seemed like when they needed a shot, he seemed to produce the shot. He just has that in him.”
That golf game — yes, the Linderbaum family won — showed something unique to the 6-foot-2 center.
“The higher the stakes, he seems to elevate to that level,” Miller said. “I’ve very rarely seen that from very many people. … You just can’t teach that. You can’t coach that.”
As a former NFL assistant — “I've sat on that side of the fence for six years” — Ferentz said Linderbaum “is kind of unusual” for a draft prospect because NFL teams know “what you’re going to get” with him.
“I told the guys at pro day, there's really not a lot to tell you because everything he is, it's on film,” Ferentz said. “Everything he does, his resume is on film. … Whatever they think they're getting, that's what they're getting, probably plus some.”
Linderbaum’s meetings with NFL teams — whether that be at the NFL Combine, at his individual pro day or in another setting — have gotten some good reviews.
“One guy said he could probably coach our offensive line,” Ferentz said. “It was that detailed, that thorough.”
Linderbaum’s projections in NFL mock drafts vary widely.
One of the common knocks against the All-America center is his arm length. He had the shortest arms of any offensive lineman at the NFL Combine, but that doesn’t concern Ferentz nor his teammates.
“I guess his arms weren't quite as long as somebody wants,“ Ferentz said. ”I'd rather have a guy that has his arms half an inch short that can actually block guys trying to block them.“
Whichever team looks past his arm length and takes him will surely have a few more fans in Solon.
“Wherever he lands, it doesn't really matter,” Miller said. “We're just happy for him.”
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