Penei Sewell is versatile enough to strike the pose.
Oregon’s already distinguished left tackle isn’t stiff-arming the idea of being a 2020 Heisman Trophy candidate.
“Right now, I’m not even thinking about that,” Sewell said after the Ducks’ practice on Friday. “But shoot, if that happens, crazy.”
Even though the award was named after John Heisman — who played center, tackle and end at Brown (1887-1888) and Penn (1889-1891) — an offensive lineman has never won the Heisman.
The hardware given to the nation’s “most outstanding” player each December in New York is about the only individual honor missing from Sewell’s college resume.
The 6-foot-6, 335-pound 19-year-old sophomore is already the first Oregon player to win the Outland Trophy given to the nation’s top interior lineman and is the third unanimous all-American in program history.
“I could see it,” left guard Shane Lemieux said of Sewell making a legitimate run at Heisman history next season. “The best player in the country is who the award is given out to, and this year he was the best player in the country, in my opinion. A lot of people don’t see offensive line play and don’t see the way he plays, except for the guys who really watch O-line or if you’re watching Oregon football.
“He pops. If you’re a normal person watching Oregon football on TV, you’re going to notice Penei Sewell instantly.”
Sewell, a native of American Samoa, was honored this week as the co-Polynesian college football player of the year, along with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
Oregon’s Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota, was the first recipient of the award given out by the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame.
“The Outland speaks for itself, man,” Sewell said. “I didn’t really expect it, but when I found out and they said my name, it was a dream come true. And that Polynesian award, I’ve always wanted that one. It’s the greatest achievement for my culture, so being able to win that is nothing but a blessing.”
Sewell was graded out as the top offensive lineman in the nation and the highest-graded offensive player at any position this season by Pro Football Focus.
In 466 pass-blocking snaps, Sewell allowed seven pressures and no sacks. That reliable protection helped Justin Herbert stay healthy while passing for 3,333 yards with 32 touchdowns and five interceptions.
“He’s a guy that comes in every day just trying to blast people,” safety Brady Breeze said. “He’s like a little kid that’s in a giant body that just loves playing football. Like every day he’s trying to put somebody in the dirt and he has fun doing it.
“It’s cool seeing him finally get some recognition because we all know how good he is. We see him in practice every day.”
Sewell was voted the top offensive linemen by Pac-12 defensive linemen. Utah defensive end Bradlee Anae was voted the top defensive lineman by the conference’s offensive linemen.
But in the battle of the 2019 Morris Trophy winners, Sewell completely neutralized Anae to set the tone for Oregon’s 37-15 Pac-12 championship victory over Utah.
During the title game, Sewell even caught a throwback lateral from Herbert on a play designed to get the big guy in the end zone.
Despite making an impressive cut, Sewell was stopped for a 1-yard gain, and the offense settled for a field goal.
“We’ve been talking about that play since spring actually to Penei because he’s so athletic,” offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. “It was a great opportunity to give him an opportunity to get in there. We wanted everyone to see how athletic he was. Obviously we knew it, but now everyone else can see it.”
Minnesota offensive lineman Tom Brown (1960) and Ohio State offensive lineman John Hicks (1973) both finished second in the Heisman voting.
Perhaps Sewell can strike the pose in 2020.
“Long after I’m retired, I’ll be telling my kids, ‘I played with that guy,’” Lemieux said.
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email podcast mailbag questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.