Oct. 24, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama junior linebacker Dont'a Hightower and senior linebacker Courtney Upshaw were each selected as one of 12 semifinalists for the 27th annual Butkus Award, which goes to the nations' top linebacker it was announced on Monday afternoon.
Hightower and Upshaw lead an Alabama's defense that ranks No. 1 in the country in both scoring (6.89) and total defense (180 yards per game).
Hightower, a native of Lewisburg, Tenn., leads the team with 48 tackles including 6.0 tackles for loss (-22 yards), 1.5 sacks, one interception, six quarterback hurries and three passes defended. He was a semifinalist for the 2010 Butkus Award. Hightower was named the Lott IMPACT National Player of the Week and the SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday following his performance against Tennessee.
Upshaw, a native of Eufaula, Ala., has a team-best 11.5 tackles for loss (-54 yards) and a team-high 4.5 sacks (-35 yards). He is third on the team in tackles with 26 stops, including 19 unassisted tackles. Upshaw returned his only interception, against Florida, 45 yards for a touchdown and has a team-high seven quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.
"This Award is about honoring linebackers at all levels, and reminding them that they have a responsibility to serve as role models and to give back to society," said Dick Butkus, the legendary Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker.
Other semifinalists include: Zach Brown, North Carolina; Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State; Audie Cole, North Carolina State; Lavonte David, Nebraska; Luke Kuechly, Boston College; Travis Lewis, Oklahoma; Keenan Robinson, Texas; Sean Spence, Miami; Manti Te'o, Notre Dame; Jarvis Jones, Georiga.
Alabama has had two Butkus Award winners with Derrick Thomas taking home the award in 1988 and Rolando McClain this past season.
The Butkus Award is selected by a 51-person panel comprised of scouts, coaches and journalists. Selectors follow all rules of their leagues, including limitations on contact with players. Individual votes remain completely confidential. Finalists will be announced on Nov. 22 and the winner will be reveled on Dec. 7.
The Award was expanded in 2008 to honor linebackers at three levels while helping spread the word about Butkus' I Play CleanTM 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.