Hightower, Upshaw Butkus Finalists

It's interesting to see a player on a team that gets beat by several touchdowns applauded for making an outrageous number of tackles. Is it because those tackles -- and those of his teammates -- come too far down field? Alabama linebackers may not have as many, but overall statistics show that Crimson Tide defenders are doing the job better than anyone.

Thus it is never a surprise when an Alabama player is considered for an individual award. And there is no individual award for a defensive player that is more highly prized than the Butkus, which goes to the nation's top linebacker.

The Butkus Foundation has announced that Crimson Tide linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw were selected on Tuesday as two of the six finalists for the 27th annual Butkus Award.

Hightower, a fourth-year junior from Lewisburg, Tenn., and Upshaw, a native of Eufaula, are two of the leaders of the Crimson Tide's top-ranked defense. The pair has helped Alabama lead the nation in scoring defense (8.3 points per game), total defense (195.9 yards per game), rushing defense (74.6 yards per game), pass defense (121.3 yards per game) and pass efficiency defense (81.8).

Hightower has a team-high 72 tackles on the season with 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Hightower is also responsible for the on-field calls and checks for the front seven. He has added one interception, one blocked field goal that resulted in a Bama touchdown, eight quarterback hurries and three pass breakups. Hightower is now a finalist for the Butkus Award, the Lombardi Award and the Chuck Bednarik Award.

Upshaw leads the team and ranks second in the Southeastern Conference with 14 tackles for loss of 66 yards. He also has a team-high 6.5 sacks (-45), one interceptions return for a touchdown against Florida, a team-high 10 quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles. He is now a finalist for both the Butkus Award and the Lombardi Award.

Other Butkus Award finalists include Nebraska's Lavonte David, Georgia's Jarvis Jones, Boston College's Luke Kuechly and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o.

The Butkus Award is selected by a 51-person panel comprised of scouts, coaches and journalists. The Butkus Award draws attention to the ‘I Play Clean' campaign, which is aimed at ending steroid use in organized sports.

Dick Butkus was one of the finest linebackers in college and professional football history and is actively involved in the criteria and selection. He makes a personal, unannounced visit to the campus of the winner to make the presentation.

An Alabama player has won the Butkus Award on two previous occasions. Derrick Thomas was the Crimson Tide's first winner in 1988 and Rolando McClain captured the honor in 2009.

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