South Carolina vs. Georgia

T.J. Brunson, Keir Thomas

South Carolina senior T.J. Brunson was named to the 2019 preseason Butkus Award, which honors the nation's best linebacker, it was announced Monday.

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. This year marks the 35th annual selection of the prestigious award.

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Brunson, a 6-1, 230-pounder from Columbia, S.C., was the first recruit Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp visited after being hired. He has collected 206 career tackles over his three-year career, including 15 tackles for loss and six sacks. He has started every game over the past two seasons.

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.

The Butkus Award is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA) which encompasses college football’s most prestigious awards. NCFAA’s 25 awards have honored more than 800 recipients since 1935.