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Playoff Fiesta Bowl Football

Ohio State center Pat Elflein (65) during the Fiesta Bowl against Clemson on Dec. 31, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz.

Pat Elflein recognizes the incongruity.

A three-star recruit in Ohio State's 25-player class of 2012, he was one of the lowest-rated players in the group.

On Saturday night, Elflein will receive the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the nation's best center as determined by the Rimington committee.

"Yeah, it's crazy," he said Friday. "It's just been a long journey. There have been so many influential people along the way — my family and my coaches and teammates — who have helped me get to this point. I couldn't have done it without them.

"But it's definitely interesting to think about being rated that low and not really having many expectations to even ever step on the field. And then to be here in Lincoln this weekend to get this award, it's pretty cool."

The native of Pickerington, Ohio, will be honored during a ceremony at the Rococo Theatre. He'll wear a tuxedo and shake hands with the trophy's namesake, former Nebraska great Dave Rimington of Omaha, a College Football Hall of Famer.

"I found some photos, and that dude is a hoss," said Elflein, the 18th recipient of the award. "He's a big man. I have some friends whose fathers played in college and in the NFL, and said they he was a heck of a football player."

The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Elflein turned out to be pretty salty himself. He actually began his Ohio State career as an offensive guard, starting there full-time as both a sophomore and junior while serving as the backup center.

Once he took over as the starter at center, he says it took him some time to adjust to game speed. He settled in nicely, though, and helped lead a Buckeye squad that finished this season 11-2, losing 31-0 to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Ohio State ranked 11th nationally in rushing offense (245.3 yards per game) and 31st in total offense (459.2).

Although the loss to Clemson was tough to swallow, Elflein enjoyed a fine career as a Buckeye after growing up only about 25 miles east of Columbus, Ohio.

"I always had the aggression and toughness to play the center position, from being a high school wrestler and playing football," he said. "Once I got to Ohio State, I really just brushed up my technique to take my game to the next level. And being around a lot of great players made me a lot better, too."

He is the second Ohio State player to win the Rimington, joining LeCharles Bentley, the 2001 recipient.

"It's extremely incredible just to be honored with all the great players who have previously won this award," Elflein said. "To be part of the Rimington fraternity, it's just a huge honor."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7440 or ssipple@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraSip.

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Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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