Penn State Football News: LB’s Luketa and Smith on the Butkus Award Watch List

(July 26, 2021)

The award recognizes the nation’s top linebacker

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State senior linebacker Jesse Luketa and junior linebacker Brandon Smith have each been named to the Butkus Award Watch List, it was announced on Monday. Luketa and Smith are two of 51 candidates on the list.

Penn State is one of eight schools to have multiple candidates on the list and the only Big Ten school to have multiple candidates. Semi-finalists are expected to be named Nov. 1, finalists Nov. 22, and winners on or before Dec. 7.

Jesse Luketa

  • Appeared in nine games, making eight starts in 2020.
  • Selected as a team captain in 2020.
  • Made 59 tackles (2nd on team), including 31 solo stops, to go along with 2.5 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and three pass breakups.
  • Tallied eight tackles, all coming in the second half against Ohio State (10/31/20).
  • Registered nine tackles, including five solo, to go along with a TFL and a pass breakup at Nebraska (11/14/20).
  • Registered a career-best 10 tackles, including six solo, while recording his first career fumble recovery in the third quarter at Rutgers (12/5/20).

Brandon Smith

  • Started all nine games in 2020.
  • Named the Coaching Staff’s Defensive Player of the Week three times (Ohio State – 10/31; Nebraska -11/14; Illinois – 12/19).
  • Made 37 tackles (15 solo) to go along with eight tackles for loss (led team), two sacks, a fumble recovery, and an interception.
  • Collected five tackles, including three solo and notched 1.5 tackles for loss, including his first career sack against Ohio State (10/31/20).
  • Tallied five tackles and a solo sack against Maryland (11/7/20).
  • Made six tackles, including a half-tackle for loss, and recorded his first career interception in the fourth quarter at Nebraska (11/14/20).
  • Set career highs in tackles (8) and tackles for loss (3) while adding his career fumble recovery in the third quarter in the win over Illinois (12/19/20).

Formed in 1985, the Butkus Award honors linebackers at three levels while supporting causes important to the Butkus family. Causes include Butkus Takes Heart™ initiative encouraging early cardiovascular screening among adults, and the I Play Clean® initiative encouraging athletes to train naturally without performance-enhancing drugs.

The Butkus Award is partnering with Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage to celebrate Butkus Award winners. The event is scheduled Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. Contact the Butkus Foundation for ticket and sponsorship information.

The Butkus Award® is presented by the Butkus Foundation and selected by a 51-member expert panel of coaches, scouts and journalists. The award is part 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. Visit for more information.

Penn State Football Preseason Honors/Watch Lists

Jaquan Brisker: Bednarik Award

Sean Clifford: Allstate Good Works Team Nominee

Noah Cain: Doak Walker Award

Jahan Dotson: Maxwell Award, Biletnikoff Award, Big Ten Player to Watch

James Franklin: Dodd Trophy

Keyvone Lee: Doak Walker Award

John Lovett: Doak Walker Award

Jesse Luketa: Butkus Award

Brandon Smith: Butkus Award

Brenton Strange: Mackey Award

Penn State’s season opener on Sept. 4 at Wisconsin will kick off at noon on FOX. The Nittany Lions will make their return to Beaver Stadium on Sept. 11 vs. Ball State, a 3:30 p.m. ET start on FS1. Penn State’s 2021 schedule with updated kick times and TV designations can be found here:

The 2021 Penn State Football season is presented by PSECU.




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