ATHENS, Ga., Dec. 03, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The 33rd annual collegiate Butkus Award® honoring the nation’s best collegiate linebacker was presented today to Roquan Smith, a junior at the University of Georgia.

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at

Smith, the first Georgia Bulldog to win the Butkus Award, garnered 60 percent of first-place votes and 40 percent of the overall weighted vote, a greater margin than any linebacker in the past decade.

The 6-1, 225 lb. inside linebacker anchored the 12-1 Georgia Bulldogs defense, racking up 113 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, breaking up two passes and forcing a fumble, alongside Butkus Award semifinalist Lorenzo Carter. The Georgia defense finished the regular season third in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 13.2 points a game, and earning Georgia a trip to the College Football Playoff.

Following Smith was T.J. Edwards of Wisconsin (20 percent of weighted vote), Tremaine Edmunds of Virginia Tech (14 percent) and Devin Bush of Michigan (10 percent). Dorian O’Daniel of Clemson, Josey Jewell of Iowa and Rashaan Evans of Alabama shared the remaining votes.

The selection committee stated: "Roquan Smith proved to be the overwhelming favorite in this year's collegiate linebacking class. He's always around the ball and is very tough, fast and instinctive, with exceptional football reflexes. He makes his presence felt all over the field and hits with the type of explosion that has come to define the Butkus Award. As terrific of a football player as he is, Roquan is highly regarded by teammates, coaches and support staff for his intelligence, intensity and leadership traits.”

The Butkus Award® selection committee is comprised of 51 football coaches, recruiters, talent scouts and journalists who study football talent yearlong. Selectors are asked to recognize qualities that defined Butkus’ career; toughness, on-field leadership, competitiveness, football character, and linebacking skills. Selectors follow a 3-2-1 voting procedure for five named finalists or any linebacker they choose to write in.

The 2016 collegiate winner was Reuben Foster of Alabama, now with the San Francisco 49ers. The 2017 high school winner is Solomon Tuliaupupu of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. The 2017 pro winner will be announced after the NFL season, succeeding 2016 winner Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders.

The Butkus Award® is presented by the Butkus Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization which advances health and wellness through special initiatives including the I Play Clean® program. The Butkus Award is part of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which includes 23 awards honoring 800 individuals since 1935.

Ron Arp