The honor is named after Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus and has been presented every year since 1985. It is chosen by a panel of more than 50 reputable scouts and sports journalists from around the country.
“Manti Te'o embodies the toughness, intensity, competitiveness and on-field demeanor of a throwback performer like Dick Butkus himself,” Hub Arkush of Pro Football Weekly said in a release. “Te'o was the first ever High School Butkus winner (2008), and he has lived up to all the expectations and positioned his team for a chance at the national championship. He has been an inspiration to his team and community, and serves as a model citizen.”
It proved to be a busy day for Te'o on Monday. He also accepted the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in Charlotte, N.C., which is given annually to the national collegiate defensive player of the year.
Named one of three Heisman Trophy finalists Monday, Te'o accumulated 103 tackles for the undefeated Fighting Irish. He set a Notre Dame single-season linebacker record with seven interceptions, good for second in the FBS.
Meanwhile, 6-foot-3, 220-pound Smith found out Monday via conference call that he had earned the award. The senior Notre Dame commit finished the season with 75 tackles, eight sacks and 20 tackles for loss.
Te'o is the first Notre Dame player to earn the award, while Smith represents the first time a linebacker from Indiana has been honored.