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SALT LAKE CITY — The Sewell family name has become synonymous with some of the top talent in Utah high school football over the past several years. Now it will be associated with the top lineman in the country, too.
Former Desert Hills offensive lineman Penei Sewell won the 74th Outland Trophy award Thursday night, as announced during the College Football Awards Show at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
The 6-foot-6, 325-pound sophomore grew up in St. George and anchored an Oregon offensive line that contributed to the Pac-12’s third-leading offense behind quarterback Justin Herbert. Sewell allowed just seven pressures and no sacks in 466 pass-blocking snaps in 2019 for the Ducks, who topped Utah on Dec. 6 to improve to 11-2 on the season and clinch a berth in the Rose Bowl this New Year’s Day.
Sewell is the first player from Oregon to win the award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top interior lineman on offense or defense. He’s the first player from Utah to be named Outland Trophy winner since BYU’s Moe Elewonibi won the 1989 Outland Trophy, three years after BYU teammate Jason Buck. Utah State legend Merlin Olsen also won the award in 1961.
This time, though, the honor went to a Utah high school football product. And it went to a player of Polynesian descent for the first time in the foundation’s history — a moment that wasn’t lost on Sewell as he accepted the trophy in front of a studio audience that included his parents, Gabriel Sr. and Arlene.
“Right now, I’m at a loss of words. I’m just happy to be here,” Sewell told ESPN’s Chris Fowler during the ceremony. “But for all the kids on the island, you all can do it. You see me out here, and you all can do the same thing.”
In addition to the Oregon lineman, three other Sewell boys have played or will play Division I college football: Gabriel Jr., a senior defensive back at Nevada; Nephi, a recent Nevada transfer who plays defensive back at Utah; and Noah, who committed to Oregon after leading Orem High to its third-straight state title as a senior.
The Outland Trophy is the third-oldest major college football award in the country, created in 1946 by Dr. John Outland, a former All-American at Penn in the 1890s.