Penn State's A.Q. Shipley will take center stage tomorrow night.
The fifth-year senior from Moon High School will be announced as the winner of the Rimington Trophy during the ESPN/Home Depot College Football Awards Show.
Shipley will be the first Nittany Lions player to receive the bronze statue, which has been presented to the nation's outstanding center since its inception in 2000.
"On one hand, he's pumped. On the other hand, he's pretty humble," Mark Capuano, Shipley's former high school coach at Moon, said last night. "When you're chosen as the best player at your position in the country, it's quite an honor.
"I couldn't be happier for him. He's a quality young man."
Shipley was one of six finalists for the award. He beat out Arkansas' Jonathan Luigs, last year's Rimington winner. Other finalists include Alabama's Antoine Caldwell, California's Alex Mack, Oregon's Max Unger and Louisville's Eric Wood.
The Rimington Trophy committee selects its winner based on four All-American teams that will be announced this month -- American Football Coaches Association, Walter Camp Foundation, Football Writers Association of America and Sporting News.
Shipley, a three-year starter and co-captain, will officially be presented with the award Jan. 17 during a ceremony in Lincoln, Neb.
"He's always been a guy that's been a great leader, and a guy that's been out front," said Capuano, who said he talked to Shipley Monday night. "He was the only guy at Moon to be a captain as a junior. And then he was a captain at Penn State."
Shipley, named the Big Ten Conference's offensive lineman of the year, considered transferring after his redshirt freshman year, when he shuffled between defensive tackle, guard and center in a two-month span.
But since moving to center permanently in the spring of 2006, he has become the leader of the offensive line. Penn State coach Joe Paterno said earlier this year that he moved Shipley to center out of "desperation."
"We needed a center," Paterno said. "Shipley wasn't happy about it at the time. He was a natural nose guard. ... I think it's worked out and I think he's happy with it.
"It was a good move for the team because Shipley has become a real strong leader. He's a bright kid, good worker, and we needed some leadership on offense."
Shipley has become the anchor of the Lions' best offensive line since 1995.
No. 6 Penn State ranks 11th nationally in scoring offense (40.2 points per game), and 15th in rushing (211.6 yards per game) and total offense (452.2 ypg). And the offensive line leads the Big Ten and ranks No. 9 in the country in fewest sacks allowed this year (12).
Shipley is one of 17 seniors who have led the Lions to a 40-10 record, a 3-0 mark in bowl games and a share of two Big Ten titles. He said last month that he couldn't wait to play in the Rose Bowl New Year's Day. The Lions' opponent will be No. 5 Southern California. Both traditional powers are 11-1.
"When you come to the Big Ten, you want to play in the Rose Bowl," Shipley said. "We are going to get that opportunity and we're very excited."
Shipley is an employee and labor relations major on schedule to graduate this month. He also is an accomplished golfer who has played the role of Santa Claus during two of Penn State's past bowl trips.
In addition to Luigs, other past recipients of the Rimington Trophy are Nebraska's Dominic Raiola (2000), Ohio State's LeCharles Bentley (2001), Miami's Brett Romberg (2002), Virginia Tech's Jake Grove (2003), Michigan's David Baas and LSU's Ben Wilkerson (co-winners in 2004), Minnesota's Greg Eslinger (2005), and West Virginia's Dan Mozes from Washington High School (2006).
NOTE -- Paterno is one of 10 finalists for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year Award. He is the all-time leader in victories among Division I-A coaches with 383. His winning percentage of 75.0 ranks second among active coaches with 10 or more years. Other coaches under consideration for the award include: Mack Brown (Texas), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Brady Hoke (Ball State), Urban Meyer (Florida), Chris Petersen (Boise State), Nick Saban (Alabama), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Jim Tressel (Ohio State) and Kyle Whittingham (Utah).