Bruce Johnson won an award Thursday that he didn’t even know existed.

“I asked him, was he serious? I didn’t think it was true,” Johnson said of the phone call informing he had won the Rimington Award given to the top center in FCS.

“I knew they had the award for FBS, but I didn’t even know they had it for our level.”

Johnson has been the anchor of the Maine offensive line for three seasons. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior was driving home to Rochester, New York, when he got word of his award from Tyson McHatten of the university’s sports media relations department.

Johnson, who just graduated from Maine, celebrated with his girlfriend and then texted former Black Bears offensive line coach Frank Giufre, now an assistant with the Indianapolis Colts, who was instrumental in his development. On Wednesday, Johnson was named second-team All-America by The Associated Press.

“It definitely means a lot for me. Being a small-school kid, going to Maine where you don’t really get recognized,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping it’s one more thing for NFL scouts to take notice.”

Johnson, who played every snap the past three seasons, will spend the next two months working out with two trainers in the Rochester area and will return to Orono in March for the football team’s Pro Day. He is known for his strength and intelligence, but is hoping to increase his speed.

“If I go out there and run a 4.9 (40-yard dash), I’m really going to turn some heads,” he said.

He ran a 5.04 last March.

“I did get better game by game this year, but when you go 3-8, it’s hard to think about awards,” Johnson said. “Plus, there aren’t really any stats for center. If you play linebacker or someplace where you make tackles, everyone can see what you did.”

Maine’s offense struggled this year, but made a dramatic turnaround in sacks allowed, surrendering only 18 after giving up 41 last season. Johnson, the lone senior starter of the group, was a big part of that.

Johnson’s final game was a 22-6 loss at New Hampshire, a rival he never beat in five meetings. But it led to what he called his biggest compliment.

“The UNH coach (Sean McDonnell) came up and said I was a hell of player and it was very hard to scout around me.” Johnson said. “Getting that respect from a guy who doesn’t like Maine guys in general, that meant a lot.”

The Rimington Award is named after Dave Rimington, a center at Nebraska who was the only two-time winner of the Outland Trophy given to the nation’s top lineman. The trophy presentation – for the winners at the FBS, FCS, Division II, Division III and NAIA levels – is Jan. 16 in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MarkEmmertPPH

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