The Butkus Award, instituted in 1985, is named in honor of Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, and is regarded as one of the elite individual honors in college football. This year, the Butkus family has taken stewardship of the Butkus Award to fully realize it's original purpose of honoring athletic achievement and service to the community. It will be presented by the Butkus Foundation, a registered 501 c (3) non-profit organization, and will be expanded to honor the nation's best high school and professional linebackers. The Butkus Award will be presented January 13, 2009, at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago.
Wilson jumped onto the scene as a true freshman last season, helping lead the Illini to the 2008 Rose Bowl. He played in all 13 games and recorded 29 tackles, including three tackles-for-loss and two sacks. In 2008, he will begin his first year as a starter and has already been tagged as one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten garnering preseason honors by The Sporting News, Phil Steele Magazine and Athlon. He was an honorable mention Freshman All-American in 2007.
An independent Butkus Award Selection Committee, headed by Pro Football Weekly's Hub Arkush and comprised of 51 experts including professional, college and high school scouts, and prominent sports journalists, will conduct the selection process.