Eric Herman has done everything he can to hear his name called in next weekend’s NFL draft.
The former Central Catholic star knocked teams off their feet, from the poor defensive linemen on the wrong end of his team-high 128 pancake blocks as a senior at Ohio University to the Patriots assistant coach who underestimated Herman’s might during a recent private workout.
Herman proved capable of lifting a small house at the combine and mowing through 36 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press — the most by any offensive draft hopeful.
He aced his interview with team executives, right down to the question that caught him momentarily off guard: “What are your parents’ full birthdays?”
Now comes the hardest part.
“I’ve trained for all the quantitative things at the combine and pro day, but they don’t really train you for the waiting,” Herman said in a phone interview. “You try to figure out something to do to get your mind off of things.”
The 6-foot-4, 320-pound Oregon native will return home next week for the latest milestone in a career that has steadily gained momentum. The seven-round draft runs April 25-27.
Overlooked by major colleges after tearing his ACL as a high school junior, Herman became a cornerstone for the renaissance of OU football. He started at guard for four straight bowl-bound Bobcats teams at a program that had made only one such trip in 41 previous years — all the while amassing tales of Herculean strength recounted as if wise tales and demanding notice from the NFL.
Herman, twice named to the All-Mid American Conference second team, is projected as a mid to late-round selection.
“Whoever is going to end up with him in their camp and decides to take him will be really happy they did,” Central coach Greg Dempsey said.
Dempsey has watched Herman rise from a relentless two-way standout for the Irish to a player who, somehow, came to be just as physically dominant in college. Known for his run-blocking, Herman calls himself “kind of a mauler.” Few opponents would disagree.
During one play in the Bobcats’ bowl win last December, Herman slipped and fell to one knee as he burst off the line on a running play at Louisiana-Monroe’s 2-yard line. The misstep should have come with a white flag, considering the 300-pound defensive tackle opposite him.
“Only [Herman] got up on his knees to pick the guy up and drive him to the back of the end zone,” Bobcats offensive line coach Keven Lightner said. “You just don’t see that.”
Nor do you see what Lightner did as he watched game film the morning after Ohio’s game at Central Michigan in 2011 — a 43-28 win in which OU out-rushed the Chippewas 309-65.
“I just felt sorry for the three-technique playing against him,” Lightner said. “He was physically lifting the guy up off the ground. It was like, ‘Good Lord.’ ”
In fairness, that was also his reaction on Herman’s first play as a Bobcat, though for an entirely different reason. Herman has traveled a long distance from the hard-working but overly energetic redshirt freshman who forgot to take the field for his debut series then sprinted in when OU broke the huddle with 10 players. He dug himself deeper with a false-start penalty before the snap.
“The coaches are upset,” Lightner said. “But we called the same play, ran power, [Herman] drove somebody into the ground, and we got back to where we were.”
The rest of his OU career went much the same. Herman, whose sister Ellen starred as a volleyball player at Central and OU, started 51 straight games over four winning seasons in Athens.
He spent the lead-up to the combine at a training facility in Pensacola, Fla. and since has worked out in Athens, where he held a private workout for the Patriots last week. Though he can improve in pass protection, draft experts tout Herman’s toughness, power blocking, and NFL-ready strength.
For perspective on his clout, consider that Herman led the Bobcats with 45 pancake blocks as a freshman, then he nearly tripled his production by last season. Or that he wishes he lifted more at the combine — “I was shooting for 40, but I’m ecstatic to have 36,” he said. Or that he knocked the wind out of a Patriots assistant who wanted to see Herman punch the blocking pad he held.
“Had to take a break,” Lightner said. “The coach told him we had to hold on.”
Now, for Herman, the wait continues. All the way up until the draft, which he will gather to watch with his family and friends.
“I’m pretty excited for this,” Herman said.
Contact David Briggs at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @ DBriggsBlade.