FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas center Travis Swanson feels like he improved tremendously during his final season with the Razorbacks.
He’ll find out tonight if it was enough to be recognized as the nation’s top center.
Swanson is among six finalists for the Rimington Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation’s best center. The winner will be announced before the Home Depot ESPNU College Football Awards Show in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The Kingwood, Texas, native joins Auburn’s Reese Dismukes, Oregon’s Hroniss Grasu, Oklahoma’s Gabe Ikard, Utah State’s Tyler Larsen and Florida State’s Bryan Stork as finalists for the Rimington Trophy, which is determined by the consensus All-American from the Walter Camp Foundation, The Sporting News and Football Writers Association of America all-American teams.
"It would mean a lot (to win)," Swanson said. "I think, when you look at it, the game is defined by team accolades. But individual accolades are great to have. … I don’t think it defines the players, themselves, who they are. A lot of things go into account when they determine who to give this trophy. But if I got it, it would be amazing."
Swanson has been named a finalist after a senior season in which he led an offensive line that started two true freshmen guards throughout Southeastern Conference play. He started every game of his Arkansas career – 50 straight – and was named a first-team All-SEC performer by the Associated Press and a second-team selection by the conference coaches earlier this week.
USA Today also named Swanson a first-team All-American on Wednesday, which was a rare feat for a player on a losing team. Swanson and Memphis punter Tom Hornsey were the only players from losing teams named first-team All-Americans.
"I think last year has helped me so much with the new coaches coming in," Swanson said about his final season at Arkansas under first-year coach Bret Bielema. "It kind of helped me get a different perspective on things. I think it has helped me out tremendously and I think this was my best year by far."
If Swanson is selected, he’ll become the second player in school history to win the Rimington Trophy. Former Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs won the award in 2007 and was a finalist once again during his senior season in 2008.
Swanson also would become the seventh Razorback to win a national award winner in school history, joining Luigs, Bud Brooks (Outland Trophy in 1954) Loyd Phillips (Outland Trophy in 1966), Darren McFadden (Doak Walker Award in 2006 and 2007), D.J. Williams (Mackey Award in 2010) and Joe Adams (Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers National Return Specialist Award in 2011).
Swanson said it’s a "huge deal" to be considered one of the nation’s top centers, but it wouldn’t be the "end of the world" if he doesn’t join Arkansas’ national award winners when the Rimington Trophy is announced tonight.
In fact, he’s already moving into the next phase of his football career in preparing for the 2014 NFL Draft. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said last month he is confident Swanson is talented enough to be selected in the top two rounds of the draft and the two-year captain will get a chance to prove it in the next four months.
Swanson has selected an agent, but didn’t reveal his representative Wednesday because the deal isn’t finalized. He will begin a winter workout schedule soon, aiming to prepare him for the 2014 Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala., in late January.
"I’m so thankful for the opportunity go down there and showcase what I can do on and off the field," said Swanson, who will be joined by Arkansas defensive end Chris Smith in Mobile. "Including the interviews and everything. It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to. I know I’ve got a lot of work between now and then."