Snapshot: Reese Dismukes

Highly decorated Auburn center another in an interesting crop of undrafted Steelers offensive linemen.

B.J. Finney and Miles Dieffenbach may be the highest-paid undrafted free agents with the Pittsburgh Steelers this summer, but neither of those interior offensive linemen brought to town the hardware that Reese Dismukes did.

The 6-2 3/4, 296-pound four-year starter at Auburn won the Rimington Award last season as college football's best center.

"That was obviously one of my personal goals," Dismukes said from the Steelers' locker room last month. "But I wouldn't have been able to do it without the other linemen around me. Obviously it means a lot, but it kind of means a lot to that whole group. It's kind of a group thing rather than just a personal award."

That "group thing" was a major factor in Auburn's success during Dismukes four-year run as center.

Dismukes grew up in Spanish Fort, a town deep down south on Alabama's Mobile Bay on the other side of Mobile. He led Spanish Fort to a state championship and was one of the most heavily recruited players in the state.

A Parade All-America, Dismukes was the runner-up to Jamal Golden (CB, Georgia Tech) for Alabama's Mr. Football award and turned down offers from Florida State, Ole Miss, Georgia Tech and Stanford before choosing Auburn over Alabama in the end.

So it's not as if Dismukes hates Alabama. After all, his brother Jonah kicked for the Crimson Tide in 1997.

"I respect them for what they are," Dismukes said of what's considered a blood rivalry. "That's more fanfare, you know what I mean?"

The consensus No. 1 center in high school in 2010 graduated early so he was able to hit Auburn running. He practiced with the team in the spring of 2011 and was able to start the first game of his freshman season.

"I really wasn't that good. I look back and I was terrible," Dismukes said with a laugh. "Obviously it's just about going out there and fighting each and every play."

Dismukes started 50 games by the time he was done, only two short of the school record. His highlights?

Well, let's get back to that "group thing."

"There was the Miracle at Jordan-Hare," Dismukes said of Auburn's 43-38 win over Georgia in 2013 when Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Ricardo Louis on fourth-and-18 with 25 seconds remaining.

"Coming into that game Georgia was No. 2 in the country behind Alabama in rushing defense, and we put like 296 on them," Dismukes said.

Auburn actually rushed for 323 yards in that game.

"People said it was a fluke, and you're like, 'whatever,'" Dismukes said. "But then the same thing happened against Alabama. They were No. 1 in the nation in defense and I think we rushed for over 300 before sacks."

In a better known miracle finish at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn beat Alabama 34-28 on a 100-yard return of a missed field goal on the last play of the game. Auburn had tied the game 32 seconds earlier on a touchdown pass to Sammie Coates. Auburn rushed for 296 yards that day against a team that had been allowing only 91 until that point.

The next week against Missouri in the SEC Championship Game, Auburn rushed for a whopping 545 yards in the win. The Tigers rushed for 232 yards in their next and final game but couldn't hold off Florida State for the national championship after building a 21-3 second-quarter lead.

Auburn finished that season -- Coach Gus Malzahn's first -- as the nation's No. 1 rushing team. Dismukes was a team captain and of course a key cog in that rushing total.

"It's a thing of beauty seeing five guys all on one page working toward the same goal," he said. "Anytime you get to run the ball over and over, it's awesome."

Auburn slipped to 13th in the nation running the ball last season as the Tigers finished 8-5, the same record as Dismukes' freshman season.

"Yeah, 2013 was the highlight," he said. "But you look back and you learn the most from the seasons you were down, like the 3-9 season in 2012. I think we learned, after we went through that, we learned the most about ourselves."

There was another learning process ahead for Dismukes when he went undrafted last April. The highly regarded center was knocked for his short arms (32 1/4 inches) and the smallest hands (8 7/8) of any lineman at the Combine. His versatility remains a question mark since he hasn't played any other position on the line through high school and college.

This past spring for the Steelers, Dismukes was primarily the center on the third line. He played center with the second line whenever Cody Wallace moved up as an injury replacement. Dismukes also flipped positions occasionally with right guard Finney on the third line.

"It's going good," Dismukes said. "I didn't play guard at all in college, so I'm getting used to that, and getting the nicks and the knacks of everything down right now so when we get to training camp it will be full go, 100 percent.

"I think I've gotten better each day," he added. "I feel like I've got a really good grasp of the offense and can continue to just keep improving on that and then really focus on the detail of the assignments."

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