"This is something that I'll remember for the rest of my life," Johnson said. "Being named the defensive player of the year is a dream come true. It was one of the goals I set for myself from my first day on campus and it's taken a lot of work to get here. It feels good to know that all of the work paid off."
The Football Writers Association of America and the Charlotte Touchdown Club present the trophy at an awards banquet in Charlotte, N.C. The other finalists were Marshall DE Jonathan Goddard, Wisconsin DE Erasmus James, Georgia DE David Pollack and Auburn DB Carlos Rogers.
"The Nagurski Trophy is a great honor and something that every defensive player in the country dreams of," Johnson said. "I'm thrilled I had the opportunity to receive it, but I can't take all of the credit. This is an
award that first and foremost honors all of my teammates and coaches back in Texas. It's definitely a team award and something we can all look at as a tribute to the great season we've had."
In addition to the Butkus, Johnson is a finalist for the Lombardi Trophy to be presented Wednesday in Houston honoring college footballs top lineman or linebacker. The Butkus (top linebacker) and Bednarik will be awarded Thursday in Orlando while the inaugural Ronnie Lott Trophy will be presented Monday.
"I need to thank all of my teammates for clearing the way for me to make plays," said Johnson, who leads Texas with 128 tackles this season and ranks third on the school's all-time tackle chart (456). "A lot of times you'll see me in the highlights, but those guys are doing the dirty work to free me up to make plays. I have the greatest group of teammates in the world supporting me. They're all like brothers to me and are the main reason I've received many great honors this year."
The 2003 consensus first-team All-American and two-time first-team All-Big 12 pick has posted 19 tackles for loss, 10 QB pressures, one interception, eight pass breakups and a UT single-season record eight caused fumbles (tied for first place on the NCAA all-time single-season list).
His 65 career TFL is a UT record, eclipsing the record that stood for 22 years (60, Kiki DeAyala, 1979-82). Johnson also has posted nine career interceptions, a Longhorn record for linebackers. His 30 career PBUs are a UT record for LBs while his 280 solo stops rank third on the Texas all-time list.
Texas Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson accompanied Johnson to the ceremony.