Evan Pilgrim knows his job on the football field is, for the most part, thankless. While quarterbacks, running backs and receivers get praised on TV and have their statistics listed in newspapers, offensive linemen go unnoticed.

"About the only time we get recognition is when we do something wrong - like get a holding penalty or allow a quarterback to get sacked," said Pilgrim of an offensive linemen's plight.Yet Pilgrim's not complaining. In fact, his hard work for the BYU football program the past five years is about to be rewarded handsomely. The 6-5, 300-pounder from Antioch, Calif., will become the next in an impressive line of ex-Cougars to make a living in the professional trenches protecting cover-boy quarterbacks and opening holes for rich-and-famous running backs.

The idea of being a rich-and-not-so-famous NFL guard is something Pilgrim has been forced to think about a great deal while helping the 9-3 Cougars become the nation's ninth most productive offensive team entering Thursday evening's Copper Bowl game against Oklahoma.

"I've thought about the NFL probably too much, but I haven't been able to help it," Pilgrim explains. "I've had agents calling me all the time and scouts coming out to watch practices. I just kept putting (agents) off so I could concentrate on the season, but it was tough. It was a real problem at the end of the season. Anyone who called the week before the Utah game or during finals were out immediately."

Scouts agree Pilgrim will likely be selected in one of the first three rounds of the NFL draft next summer.

"He is tenacious," Cougar offensive line coach Roger French says of his star guard. "He plays all out at all times. He loves contact and enjoys blocking. He has the speed to go with the ability."

Pilgrim was selected national lineman of the week for his play against Hawaii by the NFL Draft Report, national lineman of the month for September by the same publication, first team all-WAC and Associated Press second-team All-American. He has also been chosen to appear in the annual Hula Bowl for all-star seniors following the Copper Bowl.

"Evan is one of the premier offensive linemen in the country and he didn't get his due," said Cougar coach LaVell Edwards, who believes Pilgrim should have been voted to the first-team all-American team. "He prepared himself well and got stronger before the season and then when out there and did the job all year."

BYU's unofficial "pancake" count for Pilgrim would make the folks at Village Inn or Denny's envious. A pancake, or decleater, or whatever you want to call it, is when a blocker knocks the defender off his feet - sometimes as flat as a pancake. Pilgrim had at least 56 pancake blocks (4.67 per game).

Among Pilgrim's favorite plays is a sweep to Jamal Willis to the right side with him pulling. Often times he gets out in front with only a 180-pound cornerback in front of him. The usual result is - yep - a pancake. "If I can't put a defensive back on his butt, I have no business being out there playing," is Pilgrim's philosophy.

Pilgrim has lined up and held his own directly across number of fine individual opponents over the years - Ohio State's "Big Daddy" Dan Wilkinson, Kansas' Dana Stubblefield and Utah's Luther Elliss - but he believes Oklahoma's group of defensive linemen and linebackers as a team may be the best the Cougars have faced in a long time.

"I honestly feel Oklahoma will have the toughest and fastest front seven we've played this year," he says.

But the Cougar offensive line (tackles Eli Herring and James Johnson, center Jim Edwards and guards Pilgrim and Tim Hanshaw) isn't shabby. The group helped Willis break the 1,000-yard barrier for the second time in three years and allowed John Walsh to pass for 3,712 yards, the third best in the nation.

"This is my fifth year at BYU now and I've never won a bowl game," Pilgrim said. "It hasn't been for lack of effort in years past, but this year there is a chemistry that there hasn't been before. We've got a great attitude going into this game."

For one last game, the agents, scouts and big money can wait. This Pilgrim's got a few more collegiate pancakes to deliver.