MORGANTOWN - Joe Madsen just chuckles when he talks about being the West Virginia University football team's "Offensive Champion" for his performance in the win over Baylor.
He feels as if whoever wins the weekly award is really just the runner-up to quarterback Geno Smith. Smith garnered several national honors on Monday and Tuesday for his 656 yards passing and eight touchdowns.
"Geno could get this every week, this is like a second-place trophy," the senior center said, but quickly added that he will take the T-shirt that goes along with the school honor as a way to motivate his fellow offensive linemen to ramp up their performance.
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Wickline
West Virginia center Joe Madsen prepares to snap the ball during the Mountaineers’ win over Baylor Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
"The one thing that gets overlooked when it comes to Geno's play," WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said, "is who has been snapping the ball to him since he's been here. It's been Joey. I took some criticism from some people for naming him the Offensive Champion, but those plays never get started without a center who does everything right. You can delete a few of those touchdowns or rushing yards if the center isn't doing his job."
Smith said he can't remember the last time someone other than Madsen started the play, and he said he trusts Madsen and the other blockers with his life.
"Joe does a tremendous job of blocking and picking up blitzes," Smith said.
Madsen has enjoyed a unique perspective of Smith's development, as only a center who often looks at life upside down. He has seen him grow from "a confident freshman" to a quarterback who is "now just automatic.
"He has grown into a tremendous athlete," Madsen said. "The trust factor we have with each other is because of good communication, just hanging around him all the time."
Madsen is being mentioned as a possible Rimington Trophy candidate, an award which goes to the top collegiate center.
"That would be something really cool to win," Madsen said. "With my four guys around me and Geno behind me, I have a good chance."
A long-departed Mountaineer may also be credited with making Madsen the center he is today.
Madsen spent the early days of his West Virginia career battling defensive lineman Chris Neild every day in practice.
Neild went on to be drafted by the Washington Redskins following an All-America career for the Mountaineers
"That was either going to kill his confidence or make him better," offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said. "Obviously, it has made him better."