VIRGINIA — Virginia running back Ryan Scherf has had a whirlwind of a senior year.
Expecting a spring season of football this school year, Scherf opted to join the soccer team in the fall as a way to stay in shape and try something new. When the football season got moved again, this time to an October start, Scherf split his time between the two until the soccer season wrapped up.
Now, with his time solely dedicated to football, Scherf has proven himself to be an integral part of the Virginia football team both on and off the field.
For Scherf, focusing on football was always the main priority, but getting the chance to try something new in his senior season had its own benefits.
“I just wanted to try something a little different,” Scherf said Tuesday at practice. “I always want to stay active and I have a couple of friends on the team who asked if I wanted to come out and play so I joined and learned a lot and got acclimated to the game and It was a really fun thing to do my senior year.”
A natural leader for the Blue Devils, head coach Matt Anderson says Scherf’s dedication after games and in the classroom, as well as his level-headed attitude on the field has made him into one of the biggest pieces of this year’s Virginia team.
“Mr. Scherf is very consistent,” Anderson said. “You can always look to him for leadership on this team. After every game, he’s the last one out of the locker room, cleaning up the home locker room and cleaning up the visiting locker room. He’s excellent in school as well, very dedicated in the classroom.”
According to Anderson, Scherf’s leadership abilities on the football field really begin to shine on defense when he’s playing at safety.
“In our last game against Mesabi East, I was trying to get the guys hyped up on defense and Ryan comes in and tells the guys to keep their head on their shoulders and play even keeled and just stay at our own tempo. He just commands the defense when he’s out there.
“He’s a hard worker and he really knows how to get the defense settled and ready to go and we want more guys to work like him. You can tell a lot of guys are taking after him and learning to lead the way he does and that’s what we need.”
Scherf says his level-headed mentality on the playing field has been something he’s learned throughout the years from various coaches, as well as his family.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but I don’t really let anything get in my way,” Scherf said. “I’ve been taught from my coaches and my parents for a long time now to not let anything get the best of you. This year is proof that you never know what’s going to happen next so it’s best to stay level and even keeled while you’re playing.”
Physically, Anderson says Scherf has put in the time necessary to be in the best shape he can be heading into this season.
“He has a physique that doesn’t just happen. You can tell he plays three sports and he’s in the weight room whenever he can be. When we couldn’t lift with the team in the beginning of the year, he’d ask me to come in and open the weight room for him. He’d be down there once or twice a week still trying to get his reps in and get the time he needed so he could be ready for when football season rolled around.”
Aside from his leadership on defense, Anderson says that Scherf’s offensive abilities aren’t to be underestimated either, especially now that the football team is commanding all of his attention.
“Now that we have him full time, he’s put his nose in the playbook and you know that he’ll be ready when his number is called. A lot of time we want to give him a break when we can. That’s harder than normal this year with our lower numbers but we try to get him one. But he doesn’t want a break.
“He doesn’t want to take any plays off and that’s the best part about him. When you tell him to rest, he’s busy. He’s a three-sport athlete and he gives his absolute best in anything he does. His incredible work ethic really feeds into all that.”
Playing hockey in the winter and tennis in the fall, Scherf enjoys the benefits of always having a sport to play.
“School comes first but I just love sports,” Scherf said. “Being able to go out with your friends in any sport is always going to be great. Nothing beats that. I also like being able to set goals and sports is a great way to set and reach those goals. That’s the approach I take in life too. I set a goal and then I stick with it and see where it takes me.”
The Blue Devils grabbed their first win in two years last week against Mesabi East. Scherf says that it’s clear the team is getting better while also making note of the special circumstances surrounding the season.
“I think everyone has just bonded together this year from grades 9-12. Everyone out here is buying in and all on the same level in what we want to get done. With COVID being such a big deal, you really just have to hope for the best this season. You don’t know when your last game could potentially be so when everyone gets together for a season like this, you really have to want it and have to give it your all. You have to go game by game because you really don’t know when it’s all going to end.”
With half of the regular season already gone by, Anderson hopes Scherf will continue to lead and elevate the other players around him in his final games.
“He just needs to keep being himself and help bring the rest of the kids up into that top 10% like himself,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a lot of kids in the middle and he’s one of the guys bringing others up with him and that’s making him better. We really appreciate that and you can tell he’s going to have a bright future with whatever he commits to.”
As for Scherf’s plans after high school, those are still somewhat up in the air according to the senior.
“I don’t know where I want to go yet,” Scherf said on potential college plans. “I’m kind of pointing towards going into architecture and interior design but I haven’t figured out where yet.”
Scherf also wanted to wish other senior athletes well in their final sports seasons.
“I wanted to wish all the other seniors out there the best of luck. Hopefully everyone stays safe and healthy and we all get to play as much as possible.”