INDIANAPOLIS — Pat Elflein was asked about his perfect pitch this week at the 2017 NFL Combine. The Ohio State center then grooved a fastball down the middle of the plate.
“I can play left guard, center and right guard at a high level,” Elflein told reporters Thursday.
Elflein certainly did that with the Buckeyes, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors for three consecutive seasons. As a sophomore and junior, Elflein was named to the squad as a guard. Last season, he shifted to center and earned a bevy of first-team All-American honors. He won the Rimington Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top center. He started 40 games in his career.
It seemed like a natural conversion, and Elflein was confident it would work. But it wasn’t until his first game at his new position, the 2016 season opener against Bowling Green, where his play erased any trepidation that he couldn’t do the job.
“I’ve always kind of been the backup, but I haven’t really taken any competitive snaps out in the game at center,” Elflein said. “I just remember that game, my first full-time game at center where I played at a high level. I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to do this just like I did at guard.’ That’s when I felt really comfortable and kind of got in my groove playing center.”
At 6-foot-3 and 3o3 pounds, Elflein appeared both thicker and slimmer when meeting reporters. He said he changed his eating habits and trimmed body fat.
“I definitely got leaner, got stronger and I’m healthier and in better shape,” he said. “This is the best that’s felt.”
He called the combine process “a grind” after waking at 4 a.m. Wednesday for a drug test and then going through rigorous physical and psychological testing. Meetings with team executives followed until about 11 p.m.
Elflein said he met with most of the NFL teams and relayed to all of them he could play any of the interior positions. He views his versatility as an asset as is his team-first attitude.
But he also emphasizes his preference lies with center.
“Being in control, being the guy,” Elflein said about center. “I think center is like a marquee position on the offense. It’s kind of like that swagger that goes along with that position is pretty cool.”
Some of the differences, Elflein highlighted, were the intangibles.
“Most challenging is definitely the mental aspect,” he said. “You’ve got to be the leader on that line when you’re at center. Not just knowing the offense to yourself and knowing what defense you’re going against, but you have to portray your confidence throughout the line to kind of make everyone else feel confident.”
Elflein is considered the second-best center available in the 2017 draft, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.