A Pickerington High School North graduate who was college football's consensus top center last season is on the cusp of reaching the NFL, and he's on a mission to raise $65,000 for charity.

As a senior in 2016, Pat Elflein changed positions from a guard to the anchor of the Ohio State Buckeyes' offensive line as the team's center.

He didn't miss a beat, going on to win the Rimington Trophy, given to college football's best center. The award is named after Dave Rimington, who received numerous honors and accolades as a center at the University of Nebraska and in the NFL playing for the Cincinnati Bengals and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now, analysts such as those at NFL.com are projecting Elflein will be one of the first offensive linemen taken in pro football's draft next month. But in addition to training, he's launching #RimingtonDriveFor65, a social-media push to raise $65,000 for various charities.

Elflein said he will raise the money by auctioning footballs he and OSU's only other Rimington winner, LeCharles Bentley, have autographed.

The first beneficiary will be Pickerington-based Tyler's Light Foundation.

The organization was established by Elflein's longtime friend and youth football coach, Wayne Campbell, whose son, Tyler, died of a drug overdose in 2011. The foundation promotes substance-abuse resistance education and awareness, and provides resources to people and families in need of help.

"I know Wayne very well and I support that organization," said Elflein, who played football with Campbell's son, Ryan, at PHS North.

Elflein said he also has seen friends and family members battle substance abuse.

"I feel like being where I've been at Ohio State and having success as a national champion and all that, that it's my duty to give back, and I feel like it's an honor, too," Elflein said.

"I want to use my platform. It's a common theme at Ohio State to give back, and I'm trying to carry on the tradition."

Earlier this month, Elflein said he didn't know exactly when he'd put the first football up for auction, but said it would be in the next few weeks.

He said people seeking to win the collectible momento, or those who wish to support his charity initiative, can keep tabs on the auctions by following him or Tyler's Light on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

"We'll be all over those media channels and we're going to have (OSU football) Coach (Urban) Meyer and others spreading it on social media," Elflelin said. "Tyler's Light is my first charity one, and we're going to expand from there.

"I just want the money from this first football to go to Tyler's Light and help them on their mission to educate and build awareness about the problems of drugs and drug addiction."

As Elflein and Wayne Campbell are well aware, drug addictions -- particularly those involving opioids and heroin -- have swept the nation and are firmly entrenched in central Ohio and the Buckeye State.

Franklin County Coroner Anahi Ortiz issued a warning March 16 that fentanyl -- a man-made opioid that provides the same type of high as heroin and is often combined with the street drug -- contributed to 30 deaths in Franklin County from Feb. 7 through March 5.

"We thought we could stop or slow down the opioid epidemic in our state by educating our youth about the dangers inside of (prescription) drug bottles in 2012," Campbell said. "At that time, we were losing four people per day to an accidental overdose in Ohio.

"We went on a rampage and tried to get in front of as many middle and high students as possible," Campbell said.

"Since then our accidental overdose rate has doubled to eight per day. We are currently losing this battle (and) there is so much more to be done."

Campbell said he believes central Ohio community leaders "need to get in a room and think as one," and that "too much work is being done with a 'silo' mentality."

He said prominent figures such as Elflein play a vital leadership role in keeping the issue at the forefront.

"This action that Pat initiated says a lot about his character," Campbell said. "He is about to make the biggest transition in his life to become a professional football player and he called me with this idea to see how he could help our organization and this cause.

"This gives us hope that this next generation can make the necessary changes to reverse the tidal wave of opioid addiction. Pat sees Tyler's Light and our message to 'speak up' as a vehicle to carry his message."

Elflein's donation to Tyler's Light will help fund Drug Free Clubs at Pickerington's two high schools.

Currently, the organization spends about $35,000 to fund the two clubs, which encourage students to avoid drugs. Club members also agree to undergo random drug tests during the school year.

Tyler's Light also has helped institute Drug Free Clubs in high schools in Circleville, as well as all high schools in Belmont and Ross counties.

"Having an out when subjected to peer pressure from friends is critical," Campbell said.

"Simply saying, 'I can't, I joined Drug Free Club and I might be tested tomorrow,' lets a young person walk away from the situation without having to explain their decision."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekNate