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ESPN columnist names Seahawks’ Olusegun Oluwatimi as ‘the biggest steal of the draft’

How was the Outland Trophy winner still on the board in Round 5?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 08 Michigan at Indiana Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michigan center Olusegun ‘Olu’ Oluwatimi, whose first name means “God gave me victory”, had to wait until the middle of the 5th round to hear his name called during the 2023 NFL Draft.

Worse, before getting his phone call from the Seattle Seahawks, Olu had to watch as five other centers realized their dream of reaching the NFL before him.

Four of those centers were selected in the second round, led by TCU’s Steve Avila (who also plays guard). Avila was the Los Angeles Rams’ first selection in the draft, at No. 36 overall.

The first “pure” center to come off the board was Wisconsin‘s Joe Tippmann who went to the Jets at No. 43, followed by Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz (No. 57, Giants), and Penn State‘s Juice Scruggs (No. 62, Texans).

Arkansas center Ricky Stromberg came off the board in the third round, going to the Washington Commanders at No. 97 overall.

Then the wait began.

Three hours of draft time would pass before another center was selected - the final 25(ish) minutes on Day 2, plus just over 2-1/2 hours on Day 2.

As that time slowly passed, Olu may have wondered if he made the right decision when he decided to transfer to Michigan instead of entering the 2022 draft after his final season at Virginia.

He may have wondered why players ranked below him (Scruggs and Stromberg) were selected before him.

Or, he might have been unfazed by any of it.

Until and unless someone asks him about it, we’ll never know.

There’s one thing we do know though: Oluwatimi still being on the board in Round 5 is borderline ludicrous.

This is a player who was a Consensus All-American in 2022.

Oluwatimi played 14 games last year.

He was on the field for 918 total snaps; 410 of those were pass-blocking snaps.

Olu allowed ZERO sacks.

In fact, he only allowed his quarterback to be hit 5 times, and his total pressures were in the single digits (9).

Oluwatimi’s outstanding performance led to him winning the Rimington Trophy which is awarded to the nation’s best center.

Perhaps most impressively, Oluwatimi won the Outland Trophy in 2022.

For those that aren’t familiar with the Outland trophy, it’s the 3rd-oldest major college football award and is awarded to the nation’s best interior lineman, be they an offensive lineman OR a defensive lineman.

Past winners include several Hall of Famers, including Alex Karras (1957), Merlin Olsen (1961), and Bruce Smith (1984). Winners from this century include Joe Thomas (2006), Ndamukong Suh (2009), Aaron Donald (2013), Brandon Scherff (2014), Quinnen Williams (2018), and Penei Sewell (2019).

History is great, but let’s look at who Oluwatimi beat out for the award this year . . .

The finalists were chosen from the nine linemen who were named to the 2022 FWAA All-America team.

In addition to Oluwatimi, the eligible players on offense were Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. (R1.06), Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski (R1.11), Steve Avila (R2.36), and John Michael Schmitz (R2.57).

On defense, the eligible players included Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson (R1.07), Georgia‘s Jalen Carter (R1.09), Pittsburgh‘s Calijah Kancey (R1.19), and USC ‘s Tuli Tuipulotou (R2.54).

Think about that for a moment.

With the exception of the player that won it, everyone that was eligible for the Outland Trophy was selected within the draft’s first 57 picks, including 5 players in the first round and 4 in the top-11 overall.

Yet Olusegun Oluwatimi languished into the middle of the 5th round.

Until Seattle selected him at No. 154 overall.

Number one-fifty-four.

No. 154 for a player that was considered the best offensive OR defensive lineman in the nation last year (at least according to the Football Writers Association of America).

That. Is. Wild.

And yet . . .

It may have caught some by surprise when, in an ESPN article about College football reporters’ NFL draft takeaways, senior reporter Chris Low singled Oluwatimi out as the player he viewed as “the biggest steal of the draft.”

In Low’s words:

Centers are typically drafted lower than they should be, but seeing Michigan’s Olusegun Oluwatimi slip to the fifth round was surprising — but great news for the Seahawks that they could wait that long to get their center of the future. The 6-3, 310-pound Oluwatimi will play 10 years in the NFL and be a fixture in the middle of that Seattle offensive line. He played on college football’s best offensive line last season and won the Outland Trophy as the top interior lineman in college football and the Rimington Award as the top center. He has played in three different systems (Air Force, Virginia and Michigan) and will develop rapidly into a top-tier NFL center.

After drafting their bookend tackles in the 2022 draft, John Schneider and Pete Carroll may have secured their pivot in 2023.

And in the 5th round, no less.

Go Hawks!

Bonus Coverage

I wasn’t able to fit it into the main article, and I’m not sure when I’ll be writing another article about Olu Oluwatimi, so I’m going to share this here.

As part of my research for this article, I came across an excellent article about Oluwatimi that focused on “How one November week proved he’s an anchor.”

The article was in The Athletic, which means it’s behind a paywall, but it’s worth reading in its entirety if you have access.

Here is the part that I want to share with my fellow 12s:

The traits that made (Olusegun Oluwatimi) one of the anchors of Michigan’s offense — his maturity, stability and perseverance — helped him get through a seven-day span in November that tested him to the core.

Two days before Michigan played Nebraska on Nov. 12, Oluwatimi learned that his father needed surgery to remove a brain tumor. A few nights later, Oluwatimi was awakened on his couch by a phone call from a former teammate at Virginia alerting him of the shooting that claimed the lives of three UVa football players.

Reflecting on that week, Oluwatimi remembered the shock, confusion and helpless feeling of being far away from people he cared about.

“It was a tough week,” he said. “I felt like I handled it as best I could. It was definitely rough.”

. . .

“It was just kind of like mourning and reaching out to my guys at UVa,” Oluwatimi said. “They were in the locker room with these dudes. They’d just played a game on Saturday with them, and then they’re gone. My friend, two guys in his position group. … He goes to meetings now, and they’re no longer there.”

After the blur of that week, Oluwatimi helped the Wolverines grind out a comeback victory against Illinois. (Head Coach Jim) Harbaugh said Oluwatimi showed the “strength of 10 men,” a comment on his mental fortitude rather than his blocking ability. Oluwatimi was exhausted, but he found solace in the victory, the chance to see his mother and siblings and have a phone call with his father.

“When we came up there, we came with good news: that my dad did well, he’s recovering,” (his brother) said. “It was good to give him that good news.”

To me, that sounds like a very Seahawk-y player.

I think we’re going to LOVE this guy.

And we got him at No. 154.