TEMPE, Ariz. -- For many players, seeing their name on an all-conference team comes as validation of their hard work, often times the culmination of a career's worth of dedication.
For Arizona State guard Jamil Douglas, however, being grouped among the elite in the Pac-12 serves as motivation.
Following the 2013 season, Douglas was named to the All-Pac-12 second team offensive line. While he recognizes and appreciates the honor, he is using it as motivation for bigger and better things.
“It’s very rewarding," said Douglas of his selection. "I’m honored to just be mentioned in the same group as those guys, and it’s nice to know that hard work is paying off. But I’m not content with it. I want to be first team.”
Since taking over the left guard spot at the beginning of the 2012 season, Douglas has made 26 consecutive starts, with a 27th upcoming with ASU's Holiday Bowl showdown against Texas Tech on December 30.
Since coming to Tempe in 2010, the 6-foot-4, 301-pounder has shown all the tools needed to be a dominant offensive lineman, and has now begun to realize that potential. While his immense physical talent was able to win him a starting job last season, his focus on the mental aspects of the position now have him excelling in the present.
“I feel like I’ve grown tremendously. My first year, I was just out there playing and trying not to mess up," admits Douglas. "This year, I’ve been able to cut it loose and actually make some plays. I know that I can be confident in my abilities because I know that I can play.”
Douglas' growth over the past two seasons has been greatly aided by the impact of two key figures on the team.
After the 2012 season, Todd Graham made a change to his coaching staff, bringing in Chris Thomsen to take over the offensive line. The tough-minded Thomsen has been able to elevate the play of not just from Douglas, but by the entire unit.
“Coach Thomsen has had a huge impact on me. Off the one year he's been here, I’ve gotten better," Douglas said. "Footwork-wise, hands-wise, eyes, everything. I’ve become a smarter player. He helps me every day in working with me to turn my weaknesses into my strengths.”
But perhaps no one has had quite the effect on Douglas as the man who has started to Douglas' left for every one of his career games: Evan Finkenberg. The Sun Devil left tackle has long been one of the team's most important—and underrated players—and this year finally earned the All-Pac-12 first team spot to which Douglas aspires.
“I’m going to miss playing next to him. He brings me so much confidence," Douglas said of Finkenberg. "I know that he is always going to be there. We’re always going to be on the same page. He’s a great player. I’m going to miss him a lot, but we’ve got some guys that will be ready to step in.”
Finkenberg and Douglas have formed the core of a Sun Devil offensive line that has put together many dominating moments while also battling through some very low points. Aiding their cause was a starting quintet that made every start of the year, a rarity on any level of the game. As the season progressed, that grouping put more focus into film work and study, and the results were positive.
“I think we’ve grown tremendously," said Douglas of the ASU offensive line. "If you watch the film from our first game to the last game, even though we lost, I think we’ve taken big steps in just being smarter as players. We’ve been watching film and learning more about what defenses do before they do it. It’s helped us a lot.”
Making the All-Pac-12 team for the first time in his career and playing a critical role in ASU's Pac-12 South division champion team marked a great accomplishment for Douglas, but they all fell behind another achievement the Cypress, Calif. native had this year: graduating college.
“It feels great. I’m the first in my family to do it, so it’s a great accomplishment just to know that I’m done with school and that I have a degree, something a lot of people can’t say that they have," Douglas said.
With all of those items now on his resume, 2013 has already been a banner year for Douglas, but it's not yet finished.
One more game remains. One more chance to make his mark.
Next Monday, Douglas and his linemates will try to pave the way for the Sun Devil offense through the Texas Tech defense.
The Red Raiders come into the game riding a five-game losing streak in which they've surrendered an average of over 48 points-per-game. Despite those struggles, Douglas is not underestimating them one bit.
"They have a great front seven. They are very big and physical and play hard," Douglas said. "They have a few playmakers. They do a little bit of blitzing to try and mix up what the offense does. We’re just preparing to be ready for those guys.”
Another quality performance in the Holiday Bowl would serve the dual role of capping a fantastic season while setting the stage for even greater things for Douglas and the entire Sun Devil program.
Despite falling just short of the Rose Bowl, Douglas feels ASU is on the precipice of greatness.
"This team will come back next year and strive for that same goal," said Douglas. "Coach Graham always says that now a Pac-12 Championship is the minimum of what we need to do. We should expect to be in that, because we know that we can play and get in that."
Given Douglas' career trajectory to this point, it's not hard to see that happening.