Alabama Puts Three On Butkus Watch

Three Alabama players have been selected for the watch list for the Butkus Award, which is given to the best linebacker in college football.

Alabama linebackers on the initial watch list announced Thursday are Dont'a Hightower, a 6-4, 258-pound junior; Nico Johnson, a 6-3, 238-pound junior; and Courtney Upshaw, a 6-2, 263-pound senior.

The 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 Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly.

Candidates from 40 universities across 10 conferences. Luke Kuechly of Boston College is the only returning finalist. Returning semi-finalists include; Dont'a Hightower of Alabama, Sean Spence of Miami (Fla.), Travis Lewis of Oklahoma, Keenan Robinson of Texas, and Manti Te'o of Notre Dame.

In addition to Alabama being represented by three on the watch list, teams with two nominees are Florida, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Southern Miss, TCU, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The Butkus Foundation also has awards for high school and professional players.

Semi-finalists will be named October 24, finalists November 22, and winners will be notified on or before December 7. The Professional award will be announced in January 2012. Candidates in addition to those appearing on the watch list may be considered for the Award.

Alabama has had two winners of the Butkus Award, Derrick Thomas in 1988 and Rolando McClain in 2009.

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