LOS ANGELES – The 30th annual collegiate Butkus Award® honoring the nation’s best collegiate linebacker was presented today to Eric Kendricks, a senior at UCLA.
The award was presented at a surprise event before coaches, players and family on the UCLA campus and featured an appearance by the Award’s namesake, Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, and his son Matt.
UCLA’s Kendricks very narrowly edged the University of Miami’s senior standout Denzel Perryman, a returning semi-finalist. They were followed closely by Notre Dame sophomore Jaylon Smith and University of Washington senior Hao’oli Kikaha in what was a four-man race until the end. Arizona’s Scooby Wright led the pack in write-in votes and finished fifth, alongside Michigan’s Jake Ryan.
Other recipients to receive write-in votes included Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney, Clemson’s Stephone Anthony, TCU’s Paul Dawson, UCLA’s Myles Jack, Penn State’s Mike Hull, Tennessee’s AJ Johnson and Nevada’s Zach Vigil.
The selection committee stated: “This year’s class of linebackers featured as many deserving candidates as ever before, perhaps lacking a truly distinguished standout, as evidenced by a race that was as close as any the past decade and included a record eight different write-in recipients. We commend Kendricks for his diagnostic skill, cover instincts, sideline-to-sideline pursuit and on-field leadership. The two-time captain will finish his career as the Bruins’ all-time tackling leader.
“He has been overlooked much of his career despite being an extremely productive tackling machine and opportunistic playmaker against the run and pass. His exceptional instincts, motor, toughness and football intelligence distinguished his play. His integrity, selflessness and leadership embody what the Butkus Award represents.”
The Butkus Award® selection committee is comprised of football coaches, recruiters, talent scouts and journalists who study football talent yearlong. They follow a 3-2-1 voting procedure and are afforded write-in opportunities for any linebacker who does not make the finalist cut.
Selectors are asked to recognize the qualities that defined Butkus’ career, heavily factoring the following five traits: toughness (physicality and mental perseverance), on-field leadership (intimidating presence and respected tone-setter), competitiveness (intensity, football temperament and relentless effort), football character (work ethic, drive and determination) and most fundamentally, linebacking skills (instincts, tackling, filling, angles, balance, knee bend, blitzing, shedding, playmaking and cover skills), especially in critical situations.
Kendricks becomes the first UCLA Bruin, and the fourth honoree among current PAC 12 teams, to win the Butkus Award. Others were Chris Claiborne of USC (1998), Matt Russell of Colorado (1996), and Alfred Williams of Colorado (1990). Last year’s winner was C.J. Mosely of Alabama, a starter and rookie standout for the Baltimore Ravens.
A high school and pro Butkus Award will be presented later this season.
Created in 1985, the Butkus Award was expanded in 2008 to honor linebackers at three levels while spreading the word about Butkus’ I Play Clean™ initiative which encourages teens to eat well, train hard, and play with attitude instead of using performance-enhancing drugs. The I Play Clean initiative is supported in part by the NFL and NFL Players Association Research and Education Foundation. More information is available at http://www.iplayclean.org and on facebook at i.play.clean.
The Butkus Award, http://www.thebutkusaward.com and on facebook at 51.butkus, is presented by the Butkus Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization. The Butkus Award is part of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) which includes the 21 most prestigious awards in college football with 678 years of selection excellence. Visit http://www.NCFAA.org for more information.