By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Tyler Linderbaum is eager and ready to fulfill a dream as an incoming freshman defensive lineman on the Iowa football team.
He moves into a dormitory on June 10th with the other incoming freshmen and will start training on a daily basis under Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle.
So it’s full steam ahead, except that the 6-foot-2, 270-pound Linderbaum isn’t quite finished with being a high school athlete yet, not with nearly a full season of baseball still to play this summer.
Linderbaum could’ve said thanks, but no thanks to another season with the Solon baseball team in order to focus solely on being an Iowa football player because that is a daunting task by itself.
But at a time when more and more high school football recruits are graduating early in order to get a head start on playing in college, Linderbaum is old school, and a throwback, who values loyalty and thrives on competition.
“It says a lot about him and his character,” said Solon teammate and fellow senior Luke Ira. “He’s a team guy. So he’s not just going to leave us behind. He loves us.”
Linderbaum loves competition, especially when it’s mixed in with the camaraderie with his high school teammates and close friends.
He has played multiple sports since a young age, and most of his teammates on the Solon baseball team have competed with him since the beginning.
“He loves to be around his friends,” said Solon football coach Kevin Miller. “He enjoys the high school experience about being a multi-sport athlete because it’s about the relationships and about being competitive. And certainly, he’s had a stellar career. I don’t think there’s any debate there.
“So he just wants to finish off his career with his teammates, and hopefully, they’re able to finish strong. I think they’ve got a pretty good team.”
Linderbaum is one of the key players for a Solon baseball team that is 3-0 and currently ranked eighth in Class 3A. He had two hits and drove in two runs in Thursday’s 10-5 victory over Regina while batting third in the order.
He started the game at first base and pitched the final inning in relief. Linderbaum also has played third base and second base for the Spartans.
That kind of versatility is impressive under any circumstance, but especially for a defensive lineman who weighs well over 250 pounds.
“We’ve got a lot of returning starters, which helps,” Linderbaum said of Solon having eight returning starters from last season. “Having a veteran team always helps in high school baseball. So yeah, we’re ready for a great season, and I can’t wait.”
Linderbaum’s rise as a multi-sport star in football, wrestling, track and field and baseball has been well-documented. But equally impressive, according to Miller, has been his rise as a team leader.
Linderbaum feels an obligation to the Solon baseball team because he wants to finish what he started with his friends. He has the next four or five years to play college football, whereas his high school sports career will be over in about two months.
“It just says everything about him as a teammate,” Miller said. “It’s not about him. It’s about being with his friends, and I think that’s real important to note that here’s a guy that’s done everything you want to do as an athlete, but still aspires to do more just because he loves the competition itself.
“He loves his teammates because he’s a great leader. He’s really flourished as a leader. I’ve just seen great growth and development in his leadership skills and it shows. This baseball team is going to be dependent in his leadership as they move forward, too.”
Four teams in four different sports have depended on Linderbaum's leadership and talent in high school. He serves as a shining example that playing multiple sports in high school can be beneficial in so many ways. Linderbaum didn't have to immerse himself in football to achieve what he wanted in that sport.
Some believe that playing multiple sports makes you better in whatever sport you ultimately choose to pursue.
Linderbaum's illustrious career at Solon certainly supports that belief.
Solon baseball coach Keith McSweeney never even considered that Linderbaum might skip his senior season of baseball to focus solely on being an Iowa football player.
“I just know him well enough in the sense that these guys are his brothers,” McSweeney said. “He’s played baseball and football and all the sports with them since he was little. If Kirk Ferentz was going to let him play baseball, there was no doubt. And the fact that he is local, he can go live in the dorms and practice.”
Speaking of Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, he encourages his incoming recruits to enjoy their high school experience to the fullest rather than rush to college.
Some coaches might try to convince a kid in Linderbaum's position to focus solely football over the summer. But Linderbaum said the Iowa coaches supported his decision to play baseball.
“Especially when I’m so close, it kind of helps out,” Linderbaum said. “So I kind of knew the coaches would let me. I’ve been playing with these guys forever, as long as I can remember playing baseball. So I couldn’t miss out on my senior year with these guys.”
There could be some scheduling conflicts this summer, but both sides will deal with that when or if it happens.
“Coach Doyle gets a hold of him for most of the day, that hasn’t started yet,” McSweeney said. “And there might be times when we don’t have him for whatever reason. That’s his priority. But when he comes, he’s a big difference maker for us from a leadership standpoint first. Guys really look to him for that leadership. And obviously, he can play sports a little bit as well.”
Though it is true that football is Linderbaum’s top priority, loyalty and friendship are just as important to him. They last forever, while football is only temporary.
There is also the chance that Linderbaum could be redshirted as a true freshman next season.
So why not play high school baseball while he still can?
It'll be a demanding schedule, but Linderbaum relishes a challenge, especially when his high school teammates are involved.
“Once I move and start the workouts (with Iowa), it’s going to be hard,” Linderbaum said. “But I’m ready for the long journey this summer, and I’m excited to get it rolling.”