Clemson’s Simmons, USC’s Brunson named to Butkus Award watch list

Clemson’s Simmons, USC’s Brunson named to Butkus Award watch list

Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons and South Carolina’s TJ Brunson were among the 51 players from around the country named to the Butkus Award watch list on Monday for the best linebacker in the country.

Simmons was the Tigers’ leading tackler in 2018 with 97 on a squad that would win the National Championship. He would also add 9.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks in his sophomore season.

Brunson, a 6-1, 230-pounder from Columbia, S.C., is one of the leaders of the Gamecock defense and an all-star candidate in his final campaign for the Garnet & Black. The first recruit Coach Muschamp visited after being hired, Brunson has collected 206 career tackles over his three-year career, including 15.0 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks. He has started every game over the past two seasons for the Gamecocks.

The watch list contains 51 linebackers, mirroring the legendary "51" pro jersey associated with the Award's namesake Dick Butkus, who was recognized by NFL Films as the best defensive player in football history. 2019 marks the 35th annual selection of the prestigious award.

Semi-finalists for the Butkus Award will be named November 4, finalists November 25, and winners on or before December 10. Appearing on the watch list is not a requirement to win the award.

Formed in 1985, the Butkus Award was expanded in 2008 to honor linebackers at three levels while supporting causes important to the Butkus family. They include the I Play Clean initiative promoting training and nutrition instead of performance-enhancing drugs, and the Butkus Takes Heart initiative encouraging early cardiovascular screening among adults.