FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas linebacker Sam Olajubutu has been named to the watch list for the 37th Annual Rotary Lombardi Award. The first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection and honorable mention All-American is one of 44 preliminary candidates for the award presented annually to the nation’s top down lineman or defensive player who lines up within five yards of the football.
The 37th Rotary Lombardi Award will be presented on Dec. 6, at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Houston. A.J. Hawk of Ohio State was named the 36th winner of the award last year. Former Razorbacks Shawn Andrews (2002) and Billy Ray Smith Jr. (1981-82) were both finalists for the Lombardi Award.
“I’m very excited for Sam to be recognized as one of the best defensive players in the nation,” Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt said. “When you are able to earn first-team honors as a linebacker in the SEC, you have already proven that you can play with anyone. He has made tremendous strides from this time last year and will be a leader for us on the field in 2006. I’m confident that he will have a great senior season and people around the country will continue to learn that Sam Olajubutu is big-time player.”
As a junior, Olajubutu led the Razorbacks and ranked third in the SEC last season with 111 tackles. He also led the Hogs in tackles for loss with 14.5 for 40 yards. His 1.32 tackles per loss per game ranked tied for fifth in the league. The LaGrange, Ga., native also accounted for 4.5 sacks, eight quarterback hurries, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. Olajubutu’s 18 tackles against Auburn were the most in a single game by any player in the SEC this season.
The preliminary candidates earned a place on the initial watch list by earning All-America honors at the end of the 2005 or previous seasons, or by being named to their respective all conference team as selected by the conference’s head coaches. The watch list will be updated prior to the start of the 2006 season, in order to identify those players who have been selected as pre-season honors candidates.
While the watch list highlights players who have already received national recognition, any Division I-A player who meets the position requirements is eligible for consideration by the Rotary Lombardi Selection Committee. This committee is comprised of over 500 members, including all past finalists, all Division I-A head coaches and a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. The Rotary Lombardi Watch List, intended as a reference tool for the selection committee, will be periodically updated and revised through the conclusion of the voting to determine the 12 semifinalists for 2006.
Founded in the weeks following the death of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi from cancer in 1970, the Rotary Lombardi Award presented by Wachovia Bank has annually delivered upon the mission set forth by Marie Lombardi when she first granted the use of her late husband’s name. Her only stipulation was that all net proceeds from the event be donated to the American Cancer Society and over $3.3 million has been generated since that time, including over $140,000 in 2005.
The Rotary Club of Houston, in operation since 1912, is an association of more than 350 successful business professionals, all prominent in their individual fields of endeavor, who volunteer their efforts through the work of some two dozen club committees. Assistance is provided to such diverse groups as troubled youngsters, former prison inmates, business oriented high school students, families of cancer patients, deserving college scholarship candidates and the nation’s cancer research efforts. The club’s most recent community project is the East End Healthy Children’s Collaborative which provides much needed access to primary health care for residents on Houston’s East side.
37th ROTARY LOMBARDI AWARDPRELIMINARY WATCH LIST(as of March 7, 2006)
Rufus Alexander, LB Oklahoma
Mike Alston, LB, Toledo
Sam Baker, OT, USC
Antwan Barnes, LB, Florida International
George Batiste, OG, Southern Miss
Dan Bazuin, DE, Central Michigan
H.B. Blades, LB, Pittsburgh
Justin Blalock, OT, Texas
Tommy Blake, DE, TCU
Keyonvis Bouie, LB, Florida International
Levi Brown, OT, Penn State
Rob Caldwell, LB, Navy
Brandon Cox, OL, UL Lafayette
Tim Crowder, DE Texas,
Mark Fenton, C Colorado
Doug Free, OT, Northern Illinois
Cedric Gagne-Marcoux, C, UCF
John Greco, OT, Toledo
Korey Hall, LB Boise State,
Jonny Harline, TE, BYU
Clark Harris, TE, Rutgers
Ameer Ismail, LB, Western Michigan
Lawrence Jackson, DE, USC
Tanner Jenkins, C, Arkansas State
Ryan Kalil, C, USC
Dylan Lineberry, OG, North Texas
Kevin McLee, LB, West Virginia
Larry McSwain, DE, UAB
Brandon Mebane, DT, California
Quentin Moses, DE, Georgia
Dan Mozes, C, West Virginia
Matt Muncy, LB, Ohio
Sam Olajubutu, LB, Arkansas
Chase Ortiz, DE, TCU
Paul Posluszny, LB Penn State
Samson Satele, OG Hawai’i,
Matt Spaeth, TE, Minnesota
Arron Spears, OT, Tennessee
Herbert Taylor, OT, TCU
Joe Thomas, OT, Wisconsin
Robert Turner, OG, New Mexico
Patrick Willis, LB, Mississippi
Kyle Young, C Fresno State