Johnson Named Butkus Award Finalist

Texas linebacker <B>Derrick Johnson </B>was named one of three Butkus Award finalists honoring the college football&#146;s best linebacker, it was announced Thursday. The junior becomes Texas&#146; first finalist for the award that was first presented in 1985.

"I'm really excited about being picked as a finalist because the Butkus Award was one of my personal goals coming into the season and something I've thought about for a long time," Johnson said. "It's even more special to be the first finalist from Texas, especially considering all of the great linebackers that have played here.

"Of course I wouldn't have a chance to make any of the plays I've been fortunate enough to make without my teammates. We all work together to make things happen on defense, so they all deserve as much credit as I do.

Johnson leads Texas with 97 tackles, including 15 TFL. He ranks second on the team with four INT (tied for single-season all-time best among Longhorn linebackers) and the most among Butkus finalists. Johnson has also registered three fumble recoveries, one forced tumble, two sacks and eight QB pressures.

Other finalists are Oklahoma’s Teddy Lehman and Miami’s Jonathan Vilma. Texas’ D.D. Lewis was a Butkus semifinalist in 2001.

"For me, being the young guy of the finalists, it's a thrill to be on a list with these two talented guys," Johnson added. "I've met and played against Teddy, and he's a great guy and a great player. I really haven't had a chance to meet Jon, but I've watched him on TV and he's a great linebacker too."

Johnson was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week and the Nagurski Award’s National Defensive Player of the Week for his work against Nebraska. In that 31-7 win, Johnson totaled 11 tackles, one INT, four QB pressures and caused a fumble.

"He’s playing as good as anybody in the country right now," head coach Mack Brown said of his junior WLB. "He’s as good as any linebacker I’ve ever coached."

The 2003 Butkus Award winner will be presented with the trophy by the award's namesake, Dick Butkus, at the Butkus Award Presentation Ceremony on Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at Sea World.

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