Hightower, Upshaw Butkus Semifinalists

Dick Butkus (left) with Rolando McClain

One out of six Butkus Award nominees plays linebacker for The University of Alabama. The 12 semifinalists for the award given to the nation's most outstanding linebacker include Crimson Tide junior Dont'a Hightower and Bama senior Courtney Upshaw.



Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw lead an Alabama defense that ranks number one in the country in both scoring (6.89 points per game) and total defense (180 yards per game).

Hightower, a native of Lewisburg, Tenn., leads the Tide with 48 tackles including six tackles for loss (-22 yards), one and a half sacks, one interception, six quarterback hurries and three passes deflected. He was a semifinalist for the 2010 Butkus Award. Hightower was named the Lott IMPACT National Player of the Week and the SEC Defensive Player of the Week on Monday following his performance against Tennessee.

Upshaw, a native of Eufaula, has a team-best 11 and a half tackles for loss (-54 yards) and a team-high four and a half sacks (-35 yards). He is third on the team in tackles with 26 stops, including 19 unassisted tackles. Upshaw returned his only interception, against Florida, 45 yards for a touchdown and has a team-high seven quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.

Upshaw was the Most Valuable Player in last year's Capital One Bowl victory over Michigan State.

"This Award is about honoring linebackers at all levels, and reminding them that they have a responsibility to serve as role models and to give back to society," said Dick Butkus, the legendary Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker.

Not only is Butkus active in the award process, he makes a personal on-campus appearance and a surprise announcement of the winner.

Other semifinalists include: Zach Brown, North Carolina; Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State; Audie Cole, North Carolina State; Lavonte David, Nebraska; Luke Kuechly, Boston College; Travis Lewis, Oklahoma; Keenan Robinson, Texas; Sean Spence, Miami; Manti Te'o, Notre Dame; Jarvis Jones, Georiga.

Alabama has had two Butkus Award winners with the late Derrick Thomas taking home the award in 1988 and Rolando McClain winning as he led Alabama to the national championship in 2009. This will be the 27th year for the presentation of the award.

The Butkus Award is selected by a 51-person panel comprised of scouts, coaches and journalists. Selectors follow all rules of their leagues, including limitations on contact with players. Individual votes remain completely confidential. Finalists will be announced on Nov. 22 and the winner will be reveled on Dec. 7.

The 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 steroids and related drugs. More information is available at www.iplayclean.org or at www.facebook.com/i.play.clean

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