Carimi: Now it's Wagner's turn to win Outland
Gabe Carimi replaced 2006 Outland Trophy winner Joe Thomas at Wisconsin and won the award four years later.
On Wednesday, Carimi put the onus on the man who will take over his spot at left tackle next season.
''It'll be up to Ricky Wagner to win it now,'' Carimi said at a news conference on the eve of the annual Outland banquet.
Carimi said he expected Wagner, the Badgers' starting right tackle, to switch sides as a junior next season.
As for Carimi's future, it's in the NFL, but he isn't sure about his position.
''I'm going to play whatever the team wants me to play,'' Carimi said. ''I can play right. I've played left for five years. Wherever someone wants me to play, I'm going to give it a good shot. I think I'll perform well wherever they want me to play.''
Carimi was selected Dec. 9 as the Outland winner as the nation's top interior lineman. The Football Writers Association of America has made the formal presentation in Omaha for 14 years.
Carimi has been training in Phoenix since the Badgers' Rose Bowl loss to TCU. He said he would fly to Cleveland on Friday to begin preparation for the Senior Bowl on Jan. 29 in Mobile, then return to Arizona to get ready for February's NFL scouting combine.
Carimi, Wagner and the rest of the Wisconsin line paved the way for a rushing attack that came up 4 yards short of producing three 1,000-yard rushers. James White (1,052), John Clay (1,012) and Montee Ball (996) formed the nation's most effective 1-2-3 punch.
Now, Carimi said, he has to prove he can excel as a pass-protector.
''There is that stigma from being a Big Ten lineman that you're going to run-block all the time,'' he said. ''That's why I'm going to go to the Senior Bowl and (show) I can pass block.''
Carimi spent part of Wednesday on the campus of Boys Town, the world-renowned home for troubled youth on the west side of Omaha. The four-time Big Ten all-academic pick will graduate in May with a degree in civil engineering, and he urged students to pursue their educations.
''There was only one guarantee when I came to the University of Wisconsin - that I was going to get a degree out of it,'' he said.
The 6-foot-7, 327-pound Carimi had modest credentials coming out of high school in Cottage Grove, Wis. Rivals.com listed him as a three-star recruit, out of five stars, and rated him the nation's No. 30 offensive tackle prospect.
He redshirted in 2006, then took over at left tackle for Thomas, the third pick of the 2007 draft who next month will play in his fourth Pro Bowl for the Cleveland Browns.
Carimi said he's had to work hard for everything he's received.
''This is the most I could hope for, winning this award,'' Carimi said. ''I didn't set the goal right there (at the start). Whether it was in the classroom or in the weight room or on the field in practice, whatever I had to do, I had to perform well at it. I approached each day as a battle.''
Carimi noted that he was receiving his Outland in what shortly will become enemy territory for the Badgers.
He said he's excited about Nebraska joining the Big Ten and the conference having a championship game for the first time in 2011.
''Nebraska went all the way to the (Big 12) championship game, so having one of the big dogs coming from the Big 12 is unbelievable for the conference,'' Carimi said. ''I think it's going to do well for Nebraska, too. It's going to make the conference strong.''
Along with Carimi, 1959 Outland winner Mike McGee will receive his trophy on Thursday. Long-ago winners did not receive hardware. The Outland committee each year brings back a former winner and presents him with a replica of the current trophy.
McGee was an All-American at Duke who played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1960-62. He was head coach at East Carolina and Duke before working as athletic director at Cincinnati, Southern California and South Carolina. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1990.