CHICAGO – The 32nd annual Butkus Award® honoring the nation’s best linebackers kicked off its 2016 selection process today by announcing its collegiate preseason watch list.

Mirroring the legendary “51” pro jersey of the award’s namesake Dick Butkus whom NFL Films considers the best defensive player in football history, each watch list features 51 players who will be reviewed by a 51-person selection panel of deeply experienced coaches, talent evaluators and journalists who vote by private ballot. Appearance on the watch list is not required to become a semifinalist.

The Collegiate Butkus Award watch list includes candidates from 44 universities. It includes one returning finalist, Raekwon McMillan of Ohio State, who won the 2013 national high school Butkus Award.

Semifinalists will be named Oct. 31, finalists Nov. 21, and winners will be notified on or before Dec. 6.

The 2015 Butkus Award winners:

  • Professional: Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
  • Collegiate: Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame (now Dallas Cowboys)
  • High School: Caleb Kelly, Clovis West, Calif. (now Oklahoma)


MORE: Check here for full preseason watch lists

Formed in 1985, the Butkus Award was expanded in 2008 to honor linebackers at three levels while helping spread the word about Butkus’ I Play Clean™ initiative which encourages teens to eat well, train hard, and play with attitude instead of resorting to performance-enhancing drugs.  More information is available at

The Butkus Award, and on Facebook at 51.butkus, is presented by the Butkus Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization. The Butkus Award is part of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) which includes the 22 most prestigious awards in college football with 722 years of selection excellence. Visit for more information.

Player School
Ryan Anderson Alabama
Kendall Beckwith LSU
Vince Biegel Wisconsin
Dante Booker Ohio State
Ben Boulware Clemson
Tyus Bowser Houston
Richie Brown Mississippi State
Riley Bullough Michigan State
Jason Cabinda Penn State
Jeff Camilli Fresno State
Lorenzo Carter Georgia
Jermaine Carter Maryland
Zach Cunningham Vanderbilt
Kevin Davis Colorado State
Jarrad Davis Florida
Nick DeLuca North Dakota State
Brooks Ellis Arkansas
Jordan Evans Oklahoma
Devonte' Fields Louisville
Salamo Fiso Arizona State
Reuben Foster Alabama
T.J. Holloman South Carolina
Travin Howard TCU
Shane Huber Massachusetts
Malik Jefferson Texas
Josey Jewell Iowa
Peter Kalambayi Stanford
Harvey Langi BYU
Keith Kelsey Louisville
Micah Kiser Virginia
Elijah Lee Kansas State
Raekwon McMillan Ohio State
Matt Milano Boston College
Charmeachealle Moore Kansas State
Nyles Morgan Notre Dame
Calvin Munson San Diego State
Hardy Nickerson Illinois
Jalen Reeves-Maybin Tennessee
T.J. Ricks Old Dominion
Auggie Sanchez South Florida
Michael Scherer Missouri
Cameron Smith USC
Steven Taylor Houston
Austin Valdez Bowling Green
Tanner Vallejo Boise State
Azeem Victor Washington
Anthony Walker Northwestern
Nyeem Warman-White Penn State
Tim Williams Alabama
Eric Wilson Cincinnati
Taylor Young Baylor