Nico on Butkus list

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 16, 2011

Plays like this interception against Florida put Nico Johnson on the Butkus list.

Andalusia’s Nico Johnson was one of three University of Alabama players and nine SEC players on the watch list for this year’s Butkus Award.

Alabama had more players on the watch list than any other team. Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw also are among the 51 on the list.

Established in 1985, the Butkus Award is one of the elite individual honors in college football recognizing the nation’s best high school, college, and professional linebackers. An independent Butkus Award Selection Committee, headed by Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush and comprised of 51 experts including professional, college and high school scouts, and prominent sports journalists, conducts the selection process.

The award is named for Dick Butkus, who played football at Chicago Vocational High School, the University of Illinois and for the Chicago Bears. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. The Butkus award is presented annually to the top linebacker, on their home campus, in December.

Johnson has started in eight games and finished his sophomore season with 33 tackles, including a key interception against Florida.

“It’s certainly an honor,” Johnson said Friday afternoon. “But it’s not anything I’m concentrating on right now. I still have to work hard and keep working hard, and that’ll take care of everything else.”

When asked if the nomination will open any doors for him, Johnson was Sabanesque.

“Again, I can’t concern myself with that,” he said. “I just have to keep working hard and take care of business.”

He said his summer has been mainly about workouts.

“We run Monday through Friday, lift two days a week, and have seven-on-sevens two days a week.”

Other SEC athletes on the list are:

• Ryan Baker, LSU

• Jon Bostic, Florida

• Jerry Franklin, Arkansas

• Jelani Jenkins, Florida

• Chris Marve, Vanderbilt

• Danny Trevathan, Kentucky

UA coach Nick Saban is among the selectors for the prestigious award.

Previous Alabama winners include Rolando McClain in 2009 and Derrick Thomas in 1988.