Iowa Football

Tristan Wirfs and Mount Vernon have a red-carpet night for NFL Draft

The 'red carpet' idea came from his agency, but Wirfs and family pulled off the logistics fantastically

Iowa Hawkeyes and now Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs meets with Iowa media Friday via Zoom.
Iowa Hawkeyes and now Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs meets with Iowa media Friday via Zoom.

Some 15.6 million Americans watched the NFL Draft Thursday night. Probably count a pretty good percentage of Mount Vernon residents in that group.

By now, everyone in town knows where Tristan Wirfs lives. Cars started cruising north on Highway 1 about 8:30 p.m. Wirfs was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers around 9 p.m. or thereabouts.

By 9:45, a group of 75 or so Mount Vernon residents gathered at Elliott Park, behind the Wirfs' home, and stationed themselves at the fence that separates the park from the Wirfs’ backyard. Mount Vernon athletics director Matt Thede wanted everyone to follow social distancing rules in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And so a “Let’s go Bucs” chant broke out. Wirfs stepped out of the back door, waved and said thanks between doing the avalanche of interviews that come with being the No. 13 pick in the NFL Draft.

Wirfs got a quick call in with Tampa head coach Bruce Arians and then he had to go say hello to some of Mount Vernon.

“It was kind of tough because I had a whole clan from Mount Vernon running around my house and the backyard,” Wirfs said Friday during a video conference with Iowa reporters. “Cars flying by and people honking, they (the Bucs) said they’d give me a call Monday and we’d talk about getting the playbook and getting some training equipment here.”

The Wirfses, Tristan, his mom Sarah and his sister Kaylia, live right on Highway 1 in Mount Vernon. So, along with four sports at Mount Vernon High School and three years as an offensive tackle for the Hawkeyes, Tristan Wirfs has basically lived his entire life right in front of the town.

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This made it tricky for Wirfs to execute his plan Thursday. Alyssa Romano, vice president of communications for Octagon, Wirfs' agency, came up with a plan to let the Wirfses have a red-carpet moment despite the draft being held remotely from all over the country.

“It was her idea, she said, ‘Why don’t we try to give her something special since we can’t be in Las Vegas.’ I was like, ‘Absolutely.’”

It took some staging to get the red carpet of about 25 feet on the front lawn without Sarah Wirfs seeing. And remember, the Wirfs’ front lawn is basically the main road through town.

Romano ordered the carpet and a bouquet of flowers. Kaylia was charged with getting the packages before her mom could see them.

“It’s funny, my mom was outside talking with someone and we needed her to get inside so I could set up the red carpet,” Wirfs said. “We couldn’t get her to come in. I was like, ‘Mom, get inside, they need your help for something.’

“So, she finally went in and I rolled it out quick. Being able to do that for her was a lot of fun.”

 

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The draft didn’t go down like Wirfs thought it might. He aimed at being the No. 1 offensive tackle taken. That honor went to Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, who was picked fourth by the New York Giants. Wirfs went after Thomas, Alambama’s Jedrick Wills (No. 10 to Cleveland) and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton (No. 11 New York Jets). The thing here is signing bonuses. At No. 4, Thomas is in line for a $21 million signing bonus. At No. 13, Wirfs is looking at $9.3 million.

“Yeah, it was different seeing those tackles go before me, but in the end, it worked out,” said Wirfs, who the Bucs traded up one spot to select. “I’m a competitive person and it was a stinger for a little bit, but being able to go to the Bucs, I’d 100 percent rather have it that way.”

The Bucs front office saw offensive tackles flying off the board and made its move. Tampa head coach Bruce Arians said all four tackles were high on their board.

“I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve done seen one do the things that he does athletically as far as numbers,” Arians said. “On the tape he’s a powerful, powerful run-blocker — extremely light-footed. You see everything you’re looking for, it’s just when is he going to be ready.

“We did spend a lot of time talking to him. We did virtual interviews. Did everything to get to know him. He’s a very, very humble, quiet guy. I really like the guy. I think it’s going to be a really good fit.”

Wirfs was OK with this for another reason. And, yes, Wirfs has talked with former Hawkeye D-lineman Anthony Nelson, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Bucs last year.

You may have heard the Buccaneers signed future Hall of Fame quarterback and winner of six Super Bowls Tom Brady. They then traded for tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s Super Bowl sidekick.

There’s some new life and excitement in Tampa. And, oh yeah, this kid from Linn County will be pass blocking for Tom Brady whenever we have football again.

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“It’s pretty crazy to think about,” Wirfs said. “Tom Brady has been in the league since 2000. I was born in 1999, so he’s been in the league almost as long as I’ve been alive. It’s pretty cool to get to protect him.”

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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