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ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Brandon Scherff played tennis — at 250 pounds! — in high school, along with baseball, basketball and throwing the shot put and discus in track and field. After taking Scherff with the fifth pick in the NFL draft Thursday night, the Washington Redskins are hoping his athleticism and versatility will improve their offensive line.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said in a news conference at Redskins Park that the team plans to use Scherff at right tackle; he played left tackle in college at Iowa.
Asked on a conference call with reporters how he'd describe himself as a player, Scherff replied: "Nasty, physical, likes to finish blocks, likes to get after people."
That's exactly what the Redskins were looking for, Gruden said, explaining that he envisions Scherff helping to "get us back to the glory days of running the football and being physical."
Scherff, listed now at 6-foot-5 and about 320 pounds, is new general manager Scot McCloughan's first draft pick for Washington, which went 4-12 last season to finish last in the NFC East for the sixth time in seven years.
"There's a lot of things that we need to fix, obviously," Gruden said.
Scherff won the Outland Trophy in college, starting all 26 games over his last two seasons. He is considered talented as a run blocker but might need to improve in pass protection.
There was some thought he might leave after his junior year, but he stayed at Iowa.
And Scherff gained quite a bit of attention when a video of him doing three lifts of nearly 450 pounds from his knees to his shoulders while being cheered by teammates was posted online by Hawkeyes strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
As a high schooler, Scherff said, "Freshman year, I went from track practice to tennis practice to baseball practice, all in the same day."
So Gruden expects Scherff to have no trouble moving from the left side to the right side of the line — or even switching to guard if that's where the Redskins eventually decide to use him.
"He's very versatile. Heck, he could probably play center, if he wanted to. But I think, Day 1, we'll start him out at right tackle ... see how he does, and I'm sure he'll pick it up quickly," Gruden said. "The thing we liked about him also: He's a very smart guy."
Scherff is McCloughan's first significant addition to the offense after a series of offseason changes to the defense.
Leading up to the draft, it was thought the Redskins might trade down from the fifth overall spot in order to acquire extra picks. McCloughan said Monday that he'd "love to get 10-plus" choices, instead of the seven he started with.
But he held onto the fifth pick and got the sort of player Washington hopes will wind up teaming with Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, taken No. 4 overall in 2000, to fend off opposing defenders.
"Not a lot of action," Gruden said about the possibility of trading down. "We had some phone calls here and there."
This was the first time the Redskins drafted a player in the first round since using the No. 2 overall selection in 2012 to get quarterback Robert Griffin III. That pick was obtained in a trade with the St. Louis Rams that cost the Redskins a bevy of choices, including first-rounders in 2013 and 2014.
Griffin led the Redskins to the 2012 NFC East title and was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he tore knee ligaments in a playoff loss to Seattle that season. He's been in and out of the lineup since, because of injuries and coaches' decisions, but McCloughan announced this week that the Redskins planned to exercise their fifth-year contract option on the quarterback for 2016.
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YouTube video of Scherff: http://www.ubersense.com/video/view/vni2RbGy
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