Courtesy of the Butkus Award
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. â€“ The 25th annual Butkus Award® honoring the nationâ€™s top collegiate linebacker was presented today to Rolando McClain from the University of Alabama. Pro Football Hall of Fame legend and the Awardâ€™s namesake Dick Butkus, and his son Matt, surprised McClain during a campus visit today.
McClain, a 6â€™4â€ 258 lb. junior from Decatur, Ala., received 66 total points (15 first-place votes). He finished ahead of Brandon Spikes of Florida (47 points, 8 first place), Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri (30 points, 5 first place), Sergio Kindle of Texas (30 points, 1 first place) and Eric Norwood of South Carolina (10 points).
A three-year starter, McClain leads the Alabama defense which is ranked second nationally in total defense and rush defense. He finished the regular season with 101 tackles, including 51 unassisted, 12.5 for a loss, four sacks and two interceptions. He produced at least five tackles in 12 of the Tideâ€™s 13 games this season and was responsible for making all defensive calls and audibles. McClain was a Butkus Award finalist as a sophomore in 2008.
"The feedback from our voters was that this may have been the toughest choice ever with all five of our finalists and a few more young men who didn't make the cut all having incredible years,â€ said Hub Arkush, who coordinated the prestigious 51-person panel of selectors.
â€œIn the end the combination of McClain's All American individual performances, his leadership on the No. 1 team in the country, and his outstanding character on and off the field made him a most deserving winner."
McClain is the second Alabama player and third Southeastern Conference player to win the Butkus Award. The late Derrick Thomas, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009 after an 11-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs, won the Butkus Award following the 1988 season. Patrick Willis of Mississippi, who now plays for the San Francisco 49ers, won the Butkus Award following the 2006 season.
In addition to the collegiate honor, a Butkus Award will be presented to the top linebacker at the high school and professional levels. A reception honoring all three winners is expected in late February 2010. Details will be posted at www.thebutkusaward.com
Last yearâ€™s Butkus Award winners included: Professional - DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys; Collegiate â€“ Aaron Curry, Wake Forest (now Seattle Seahawks); High School â€“ Manti Teâ€™o, Punahou High School, Hawaii (now Notre Dame).
The Butkus Award is selected by a 51-person panel comprised mostly of scouts, coaches and journalists, and coordinated by Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly. Selectors follow all rules of their leagues. Individual votes remain completely confidential.
The Butkus Award is part of the National College Football Awards Association, a coalition of the major collegiate awards. More information is available at www.NCFAA.org.
The Butkus Award is named after Dick Butkus, who is considered one of the greatest football players in history. Butkus was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, following an illustrious career with the Chicago Bears, University of Illinois and Chicago Vocational School. Butkus and his son Matt want the Butkus Award to draw attention to the I Play Cleanâ„¢ campaign, which aims to end steroid use in organized sports. More information is available at www.iplayclean.org