CLEMSON, S.C. — The Butkus Foundation announced today that Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons has won the 2019 Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation's top linebacker. Matt Butkus, son of Pro Football and College Football Hall of Famer and award namesake Dick Butkus, surprised Simmons with the honor at the Allen N. Reeves Football Complex during the team’s College Football Playoff Selection Show watch party.
Simmons becomes the first Clemson player to earn the honor in the award's 35-year history. He garnered 29 percent of the weighted vote and 35 percent of first place votes from the selection committee, earning the honor over an esteemed group of finalists that included Wisconsin’s Zack Baun, Texas Tech’s Jordyn Brooks, Penn State’s Micah Parsons, Cal’s Evan Weaver and Wyoming’s Logan Wilson.
Simmons is the first ACC player to collect the award since Boston College's Luke Kuechly in 2011.
"We've made a lot of history this year, and one of those things is having our first ever Butkus Award winner," Head Coach Dabo Swinney said. "We've had some great players come through, but I'm so happy for Isaiah. He's so deserving and I'm so happy for his family. What an unbelievable job by Coach V [Brent Venables] in developing him into a Butkus Award winner. It's a special moment for our team and for Isaiah."
Also present for the surprise were Denise Simmons, Isaiah's mother, and Mario Simmons, Isaiah's brother. During the presentation, Simmons spoke by phone with Dick Butkus, who congratulated him on the honor and encouraged him to use his platform to give back.
Last week, Simmons was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year, giving Clemson back-to-back ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors after eventual No. 4 overall NFL Draft pick Clelin Ferrell collected the award in 2018. Though three Clemson defensive ends had won ACC Defensive Player of the Year in the previous 13 years, Simmons became the first Clemson linebacker to win it since Leroy Hill in 2004.
Simmons concluded the 2019 regular season with the team lead in tackles (84), tackles for loss (14.0), sacks (7.0) while adding six pass breakups, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 12 games. Last night, he added another nine tackles and an interception in the ACC Championship Game against Virginia, helping the Tigers become the first team since the inception of conference championship games in 1992 to win five consecutive conference championship games.
Selection for the Butkus Award is handled by a panel of 51 coaches, recruiters, scouts and journalists who vote separately and confidentially using a 3-2-1 process, with a write-in option offered. Selectors and selection criteria are available at thebutkusaward.com.
“Simmons is one of the most versatile athletes to play the linebacker position," the selection committee said in a statement. "He's an exceptional athlete with unique length and makes plays at all three levels, with terrific rush ability, blitz timing, cover skill and tackling range. He's a modern-day linebacker with special match-up skills. For as good of a football player as he is, he's a better person and will represent the Butkus Award with class.”
The Butkus Award is presented by the Butkus Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which advances health and wellness through special initiatives. This includes the I Play Clean program encouraging athletes to play using their natural ability, and the Butkus Takes Heart program encouraging preventive heart scans and screening among adults.
Butkus Award - Collegiate Winners
2019 - Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
2018 - Devin White, LSU
2017 - Roquan Smith, Georgia
2016 - Reuben Foster, Alabama
2015 - Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame
2014 - Eric Kendricks, UCLA
2013 - C.J. Mosley, Alabama
2012 - Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
2011 - Luke Kuechly, Boston College
2010 - Von Miller, Texas A&M
2009 - Rolando McClain, Alabama
2008 - Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
2007 - James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
2006 - Patrick Willis, Ole Miss
2005 - Paul Posluszny, Penn State
2004 - Derrick Johnson, Texas
2003 - Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma
2002 - E.J. Henderson, Maryland
2001 - Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma
2000 - Dan Morgan, Miami
1999 - LaVar Arrington, Penn State
1998 - Chris Claiborne, USC
1997 - Andy Katzenmoyer, Ohio State
1996 - Matt Russell, Colorado
1995 - Kevin Hardy, Illinois
1994 - Dana Howard, Illinois
1993 - Trev Alberts, Nebraska
1992 - Marvin Jones, Florida State
1991 - Erick Anderson, Michigan
1990 - Alfred Williams, Colorado
1989 - Percy Snow, Michigan State
1988 - Derrick Thomas, Alabama
1987 - Paul McGowan, Florida State
1986 - Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma
1985 - Brian Bosworth, Oklahoma