Mention the name Tyler Linderbaum to a youngster in Solon and chances are you’ll get a smile and a pair of bright eyes in return.
Linderbaum is more in this town of 3,000 than bragging rights, a consensus all-America center at Iowa and a first-round NFL Draft pick. He is a 6-foot-3, 290-pound giant of an idol.
“Absolutely he is a role model,” Solon Mayor Steve Stange said. “A humble person that worked very hard for what he’s achieved.”
No one understands the importance of a positive role model more than Dr. Davis Eidahl, Superintendent of Schools for the Solon Community School District.
“His work ethic, enthusiasm, commitment and how he treated others represents the values we do our best to promote in Solon Schools,” Eidahl said.
Adam Haluska once had similar role model status in his home town of Carroll, where his skill and drive took him from high school star to an all-Big Ten basketball player at Iowa and a second-round NBA Draft pick.
Now Adam, his wife, Kendra, and their four children live in Solon. Adam is a financial advisor in Coralville and is vice president of the Board of Education in Solon. And he can’t say enough good things about Tyler Linderbaum.
“He’s been so special with young kids,” Haluska said.
The Linderbaum Fan Club starts in the Haluska household. When Tyler sold sweatshirts and t-shirts in his likeness last season, after NIL legislation was passed, the Haluskas were good customers.
“That was a big deal in Solon,” Haluska said. “My kids have like every designed sweatshirt they came out with.”
And like many youngsters in Solon, the Haluska’s three oldest children were huddled around the television as the NFL Draft unfolded on April 28. Jerzey, Jace and Jett, ages 13 to 7, were anxiously waiting to see where Linderbaum would go.
But as the draft reached the midway portion of the first round, Adam ended the party. It’s a school night, kids, time for bed.
“I felt bad not letting them stay up,” Adam said. “I told them, “I’ll let you know in the morning where he gets drafted.”
The next morning, Haluska shared with his kids that Tyler had gone to Baltimore with the 25th pick of the first round.
“We don’t have professional sports here,” Haluska said. “When you’ve got a local kid, and a Hawkeye, who makes it on the big stage, it’s big news.”
Anyone who has crossed paths with Linderbaum and his parents, Lisa and Todd, are quick to mention a long line of positive family traits – hard-working and humble are at the top of the list.
“Todd and I went to school together, and you will not find a kinder family than Todd and Lisa Linderbaum,” Stange said.
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Todd Linderbaum’s parents were popular teachers in the Solon school system.
“Two teachers that every single student loved,” Stange said. “So when you’re surrounded with the love, encouragement and family history of being a good person, you are instantly a role model on how to live your life and treat people. To see that type of person in our community be successful is something very special and we are proud of him and wish him nothing but success.”
Tyler made $30,000 from the sale of his NIL merchandise. He donated that money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. A picture of Tyler posing in front of the hospital with an oversized check gives a real-life example to Stange’s words.
“Anybody in town would tell you he has great parents and comes from a great family,” Haluska said. “So it’s not a surprise to see all the things he’s done with charity in and around Iowa.”
Linderbaum’s role model status in Solon is not a new trend.
“Tyler was an extraordinary role model for our students and student-athletes during his time in Solon,” Eidahl said. “He always remained humble and respectful, regardless of his successes and accolades. He led without even speaking through his work ethic and enthusiasm. It was easy to see how much he loved “playing,” whether it was a practice or a game. He took time to visit elementary school for various reasons during his high school years, which was always a favorite for the young kids to see.”
At Solon, kids are encouraged to compete in as many sports as possible. Linderbaum was a poster child for that. He lettered four times in baseball and three times in football, wrestling and track and field. He also played basketball before turning to wrestling.
“He was an unbelievable basketball player,” Haluska said. “I remember playing in a pickup game with him right after the wrestling season had ended. I’m thinking, ‘This guy hasn’t picked up a basketball in a year or so, he just got done competing at state in wrestling and he looked like he totally fit out there.’ ”
As Linderbaum competed at Solon, he also set an example for future Spartans.
“He demonstrated, for our middle school and high school student-athletes, the importance of having fun and enjoying the opportunities you have in front of you,” Eidahl said. “He proved that you don’t have to specialize in one sport to be successful.”
Coaches at Solon have used Linderbaum as an example to encourage kids to play multiple sports.
“His success also demonstrates that hard work, commitment and caring for others will lead to big things,” Eidahl said.
When Linderbaum was in high school, the Haluskas and other neighbors hired him to dress up as Santa Claus and walk down a path behind their homes, ringing bells and shouting “Ho, Ho, Ho” to entertain the kids.
Santa Claus is now a first-round NFL Draft pick. Leading up to the draft, analysts pick apart prospects looking for faults. In Linderbaum’s case, there was speculation that his arms were too short to play center in the NFL.
“They talk about short arms, and this and that,” Haluska said. “ But that dude can play football. And he’s got a motor that’s not going to quit. I think those guys (Baltimore) knew that just from watching tape that they were going to get someone special, and he’ll do big things at that level.”
Solon’s hometown hero is about to enter football’s biggest arena. But those that know him predict his heart will stay home.
“I think he’ll be a big part of Solon moving forward,” Haluska said. “And that’s what makes this town special.”