BATON ROUGE, La. — Offensive linemen are living the Rodney Dangerfield lifestyle — no respect.
So for those of us who appreciate the work in the trenches, it was a little galling to see that one of the few college football awards that gave them proper recognition has changed its standards. The Lombardi Award, presented by the Houston Rotary Club to the best offensive or defensive lineman/inside linebacker in college football every year since 1970, is open to players from every position this season.
Thus, center Ethan Pocic, one of six LSU players named to the Lombardi Watch List, is now dealt with the rather impossible task of trying to compete with teammate Leonard Fournette for an award. His odds are about as likely as a Ford F-250 beating a Corvette in a drag race. Against other trucks Pocic has a shot, but not against a sports car.
Though lineman rights activists are indignant about this development, actual linemen themselves aren’t getting too worked up over it.
“The only thing I care about is the national championship,” Pocic said. “Say Leonard does get the award. Then that makes me and the whole O-line happy, because you can’t get it without the O-line. It’s on us for him to be successful.”
Sophomore offensive guard Will Clapp says that the most important recognition of a lineman’s work comes inside the locker room, not by ballot.
“Linemen get their love from the right place,” Clapp said. “Guys like Leonard and Derrius (Guice). That’s where we like to get the love from. That’s all we really care about.”
To be fair to the Lombardi Award folks, offensive linemen were already fighting an uphill battle against their defensive counterparts. The O-line was well represented in the award’s early days, but Ohio State’s Orlando Pace was the last of offensive lineman to take home the block of granite in 1996.
And there is still a shot at lineman glory, albeit in a sillier form. Last year the website SB Nation started up the Piesman Trophy, which is to annually be awarded to the offensive or defensive lineman who makes the best play when unexpectedly throwing, catching or carrying the ball. It turned out to be a viral hit, and 320-pound Southeastern Louisiana defensive tackle Ashton Henderson even showed up to New York City to claim his rightful prize.
Clapp happens to be on the watch list for the second annual Piesman, and he’s fired up for the opportunity.
“I’ve been getting some laughs from that. It’s definitely something to set my eyes on,” Clapp said with a chuckle. “I’ll be looking for fumbles in the end zone this year.”
In a lineman’s world, attention is OK and trophies are nice — but pie is better.