Ngata finalis for 2005 Outland Trophy

DALLAS (FWAA) – Minnesota center Greg Eslinger (Bismarck, N.D.), Auburn offensive tackle Marcus McNeill (Decatur, Ga.) and Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (Salt Lake City, Utah) have been named finalists for the 2005 Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the best interior lineman in college football.

The winner of the Outland Trophy will be announced on Dec. 8 during the ESPN College Football Awards Show from Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Greg Eslinger, a 6-3, 285-pound senior and an FWAA All-American in 2004, is bidding to become the first center to win the award since Aaron Taylor of Nebraska in 1997. Eslinger has been a four-year starter (49 straight games) for one of college football's most prolific rushing attacks.

Marcus McNeill, a 6-9, 338-pound senior, has been the mainstay of the Tigers' offensive line and has started 38 games in his career. He has paved the way for the SEC's top offense and has not allowed a sack in 41 consecutive games, dating back to his freshman season.

The 6-5, 338-pound Haloti Ngata, also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation's top defensive player, has led the Oregon defense in the Ducks' drive to a 10-1 season. He has a 505-pound bench press and the agility to get around blockers. He was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week in a victory over California and also has blocked a field goal and punt this season.

Two other Minnesota players have won the Outland Trophy – Tom Brown in 1960 and Bobby Bell in 1962. Two Auburn players also have captured the Outland – Zeke Smith in 1958 and Tracy Rocker in 1988. Oregon has never produced an Outland Trophy winner.

The official award presentation will be Jan. 12 in Omaha, Neb., at a banquet sponsored by the Omaha Sports Committee and First Data Corporation. Former USC lineman Ron Yary, the 1967 Outland Trophy winner, is expected to receive his trophy there. Prior to 1989, the FWAA presented plaques to the winners, although a succession of former winners such as Yary have received their trophies in recent years.

The Outland Trophy, which has been awarded annually by the Football Writers Association since 1946, is named after the late John Outland, a lineman at Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. Outland garnered consensus All-America honors in 1898 at tackle and at back in 1899. Dr. Outland was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001. The Outland Trophy is the third oldest award in major college football behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award.

The Football Writers Association of America, a non-profit organization founded in 1941, consists of more than 900 men and women across North America who cover college football for a living. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game day operations, major awards, a national poll and its annual All-America team.

For more information on the Outland Trophy, contact FWAA executive director Steve Richardson (972-713-6198 or tigerfwaa@aol.com).

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