It's not unusual for former University of Iowa players-turned-NFL stars to return to the school's state-of-the-art training facility for an offseason workout. The facility even features a locker room specifically for Hawkeye alumni, like former Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl guard Marshall Yanda, who leaves a pair of shoes from his first Pro Bowl on site to use every time he visits.
Yanda was even there one afternoon, as noted by HawkCentral.com, when Wirfs had the Hawkeyes' weight room roaring with an impressive lifting feat. Conversely, Wirfs took notice when former Iowa players visited, and especially when they left something behind for Strength and Conditioning Coach Chris Doyle to hang on the weight room wall.
In fact, after going back to his college home this weekend, Wirfs worked what he saw into his system of sticky notes on the mirror as daily reminders of his goals.
"I was back in the Iowa weight room training this offseason and I see all these guys' Pro Bowl jerseys up on the wall every day," he said. "I've always wanted to up on the wall in that building, have my name there. I thought it would be pretty cool to get a Pro Bowl jersey and be able to hang it up there. So to make the Pro Bowl would be one of my goals this year."
Some would argue that all Wirfs needs to achieve the first part of that goal – obtain a Pro Bowl jersey with his name on the back – is more recognition, as he was already playing at an extremely high level as a rookie. After his impressive debut season, which included playing every single offensive snap at right tackle and allowing only one sack during the regular season, helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win Super Bowl LV and earned him PFWA All-Rookie Team honors, the Pro Bowl could very well be next.
Of course, Wirfs isn't planning to be just as good as he was as a rookie. While it's hard to find any huge flaws in his game, he has pinpointed at least one shortcoming he is trying to erase with the help of Offensive Line Coach Joe Gilbert.
"Something I've been working on is trying to stay off my toes when I'm run-blocking, so I'm not getting all top-heavy and leaning forward and falling over," said Wirfs. "Coach Gilbert sent me some stuff to try to work on this offseason to help with that."
Wirfs' time at Iowa continues to influence his approach as well as his goals. Fortunately, what he learned under Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz complements the attitude that Buccaneers coaches and veterans are trying to spread when it comes to how a team should approach a title defense. Wirfs isn't worried about how the Bucs will respond in this situation but he does know they have to keep complacency at bay.
"I don't think nervous is the right word, but it's something that you always think about after you come off something good," he said. "For me, something that always sticks in my mind is Coach Ferentz always said, 'The hay is never in the barn.' You're never there, you've never made, you've always got work to do. I've started to write down some goals and I feel like coming to work every day with a good attitude and effort. I think those two things, we can always control that. Just always trying to get better. That's never going to go away."