In football, offensive linemen are the first to attack, leading the offense by opening gashes in the defensive front, and the first to defend, keeping those who wish to punish their teammates at bay.

“It starts with offensive line,” Arizona State starting quarterback Mike Bercovici said. “The offensive line is probably the most confident position in our entire team because we have some incredible leaders up front.”

This season, ASU’s front five includes two players who have gained national recognition, senior center Nick Kelly and redshirt senior guard Christian Westerman.

Both players have been named to the Football Writers Association of America’s Outland Trophy Watch List, an award given to the nation’s best interior lineman, while Kelly made it onto the Rimington Trophy Watch List, which recognizes the nation’s top center.

“Just being an offensive lineman, you don’t get all the praise and stuff,” Kelly said. “It’s definitely exciting and a real honor to have your work recognized as an offensive lineman.”

Both Kelly and Westerman expressed gratitude for the acknowledgement their talent and hard work have received, but the trophies aren’t something the duo plan to worry about throughout the season.

“It’s definitely a goal, it’s not your top goal,” Westerman said. “Your top goal is to win a national championship.”

“I don’t worry about any awards or getting accolades or anything like that because all those things will just fall into place,” Kelly said. “Overall our team does well and I just do my part as a center on this team and as a leader on this team.”

ASU assistant head coach and offensive line coach Chris Thomsen said the duo’s recognition is well deserved.

“It didn’t surprise me just because of how hard those guys work,” Thomsen said. “To me, when you combine talent with great work ethic, great motivation, great focus, if you do that, those things will eventually come to you.”

Offensive linemen usually exist outside of the limelight, which is fine with both Kelly and Westerman.

“We understand that we won’t get a lot of praise, but we do the grunt work and we put in a lot of time and effort but we take pride in the little things we do in how we block and our technique and stuff,” Kelly said. “It’s not a highly sought out position, but it’s the one that’s most important I think.”

This selflessness is a key element in ASU football’s pursuit of success.

“In our program we talk about service. Offensive line is the epitome of that. We’re serving the quarterback, we’re serving the running back, the receivers,” Thomsen said. “We’re trying to set the table so they can make plays, and we get that and understand that.”

“When we go on the field, everyone around knows who’s the hardest workers, who’s the most physical, who not really to mess with is us,” Westerman said. ”We’ll take that over having our picture on the side of the billboard and all that.”

This article is courtesy of Cronkite News (Arizona State University).

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