Scherff enjoys his ‘cheat week’

BY CODY GOODWIN | JULY 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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CHICAGO — Mark Weisman enjoyed showing both Carl Davis and Brandon Scherff around the Windy City the last couple of days. A native of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Weisman knows Chicago well, which means he knows where to take his teammates for good food.

The trio made stops at Portillo’s and Gino’s East, among other places. The food has been great, they said, even if it’s not part of their normal diet.

“I left a little space for the pizza that we ate last night,” Scherff said on Monday. “This is my cheat week, I guess.”

On a normal day, especially during the regular season, the 22-year-old Scherff estimates he consumes some 5,000 calories — or enough to feed two-and-a-half normal adults.

Scherff, of course, is not normal. He stands 6-5 and checks in at 325 pounds. His deep voice is almost as intimidating as his highlight reel is impressive. There’s a good chance he’ll be the next Iowa offensive lineman drafted into the NFL. Some say he could go first overall.

But he didn’t just morph into a mauler of a left tackle overnight. It took hard work. It required dedication and consistency.

It also included a healthy diet laden with protein.

“Steak. Chicken. All that stuff,” Scherff said. “I like to change it up.”

The Denison native said he usually eats four eggs and four egg whites for breakfast, sometimes with spinach. After workouts, he drinks Muscle Milk, and he will have another with his lunch or as a snack later in the day.

The meals vary by the day, but the theme stays the same. Scherff sticks to meats, choosing either chicken or steak or fish or even venison for lunches and dinners. He hunts and fishes, too. He said his fridge is usually full of meats, ready to be cooked or grilled.

“My cousins are cattle farmers,” Scherff said. “I’ll catch some catfish for them, and they’ll trade me for some steak.”

It wasn’t always this way. When Scherff entered the Iowa football program, he was just a larger, athletic high-school kid who ate mostly whatever he wanted.

Chris Doyle, Iowa’s strength and conditioning coach, remembers the exact day he first weighed Scherff in: June 11, 2010. Scherff weighed 321 pounds, but there was a little too much fat on him.

So, with Doyle’s guidance, Scherff changed his habits. In that first year, Doyle said, Scherff lost about 15 pounds, but in each year since, Scherff’s put on roughly five to seven pounds, mostly muscle.

Doyle said he didn’t have to hold Scherff’s hand through the process, either, and that Scherff is now religious about his eating habits. The two meet regularly for a dietary analysis and discuss what works and what doesn’t.

“[Redshirt freshman] Ike Boettger moved in with him this summer,” Doyle said. “And he came into the weight room one day and said, ‘I can’t believe how much Scherff eats.’ ”

Doyle said the difference between being good and great is, often, the little things. For Scherff, a lot of his improvement in the weight room came from his commitment to his diet, which is just one factor that propelled him into the national spotlight.

“When you see guys who get as strong and as powerful as he is, you get so close to the ceiling and potential that little gains are difficult,” Doyle said.

“When you’re a freshman, you come in and you see weights, you smell weights, and you get stronger. But when you get to the point where it’s your fourth and fifth year in the program, you have to look for little things that can create little improvement. Brandon has really dialed in on his eating and his recovery in order to make that happen.”

Scherff is now reaping the benefits of not only his strict diet but also of his dedication to improve. He’s drawn comparisons with some of the NFL’s best offensive linemen, such as Marshal Yanda, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff — all of whom are former Hawkeyes.

“I think Brandon really embodies a lot of the best qualities of all those guys,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Certainly, he’s got some physical characteristics that are just highly unusual, quite frankly.”

Once Scherff gets back to Iowa City, his focus will shift to the fast-approaching season. He’ll begin another 21 weeks of following a strict diet and consistent workouts. All the noise is exciting, he said.

“We always talk about taking it one day at a time,” he said. “Once fall camp starts on Sunday, we just have to improve each day.”

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