(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
CHICAGO – The 28th annual Butkus Award® selection process to honor the nation’s best linebackers began Monday with the announcement of the collegiate and high school preseason watch lists. BYU senior inside linebacker Uona Kaveinga represents the Cougars among 38 universities recognized on the collegiate watch list.
Each watch list contains 51 candidates, honoring the now-retired professional jersey number of Dick Butkus, who is regarded by NFL Films as the best defensive player in football history. The selection panel is comprised of 51 coaches, evaluators and journalists, coordinated by Pro Football Weekly.
Kaveinga started all 13 games for BYU as a junior in 2011 after beginning his career at USC. The 5-foot-11, 236-pound native of Hawthorne, Calif., earned Phil Steele All-Independent Second Team honors last season while helping BYU achieve a 10-3 record and No. 25 final national ranking in the team’s first season as a football independent.
The Collegiate Butkus Award watch list includes 51 candidates from 38 universities. Kaveinga is the only player from a Utah school represented on the list. Manti Te’o of Notre Dame is the only returning finalist, after having won the inaugural High School Butkus Award in 2008. Jarvis Jones of Georgia is a returning semi-finalist. The High School Butkus Award watch list includes 51 candidates from 50 high schools across 22 states. Florida (8), Ohio (5) and Texas (5) have the most prep players on the watch list.
Candidates in addition to those appearing on the watch list may be considered for the Award.
Semi-finalists will be named October 22, finalists November 20, and winners will be notified on or before December 4. The Professional Butkus Award winner will be announced in January 2013. Winners will be featured in a television special a week before the Super Bowl.
2011 Butkus Award winners:
Professional: Tie. DeMarcus Ware, Dallas Cowboys, and Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens.
Collegiate: Luke Kuechly, Boston College, the NFL’s ninth overall draft pick by the Carolina Panthers.
High School: Noor Davis, Leesburg High School, Fla., now at Stanford University.
The Butkus Award was expanded in 2008 to honor linebackers at three levels while helping spread the word about Butkus’ I Play Clean™ initiative which encourages teens to eat well, train hard, and play with attitude instead of resorting to steroids and related drugs. More information is available at www.iplayclean.org or at www.facebook.com/i.play.clean.