Tuesday December 9th, 2014

UCLA's Eric Kendricks has won the Butkus Award as the top linebacker in the nation, it was announced Tuesday

Kendricks was presented the award by former NFL linebacker Dick Butkus and his son Matt in front of the team on Tuesday. The senior linebacker had 139 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks this season for the Bruins. He is the first Bruin to win the award.

The selection committee said it chose Kendricks because of his versatility and leadership on the field.

• Three Heisman finalists: Mariota, Gordon, Cooper

"This year's class of linebackers featured as many deserving candidates as ever before, perhaps lacking a truly distinguished standout, as evidenced by a race that was as close as any the past decade and included a record eight different write-in recipients. We commend Kendricks for his diagnostic skill, cover instincts, sideline-to-sideline pursuit and on-field leadership. The two-time captain will finish his career as the Bruins' all-time tackling leader.

"He has been overlooked much of his career despite being an extremely productive tackling machine and opportunistic playmaker against the run and pass. His exceptional instincts, motor, toughness and football intelligence distinguished his play. His integrity, selflessness and leadership embody what the Butkus Award represents."

Kendricks beat out University of Miami senior Denzel Perryman, Notre Dame sophomore Jaylon Smith and University of Washington senior Haou'oi Kikaha for the honor.

STAPLES: How the absence of a true champ cost the Big 12

Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley won the award last year and was a first-round draft choice by the Baltimore Ravens.

Kendricks and the Bruins had their five-game winning streak snapped in their regular season finale against Stanford. They will play Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2.

- Paul Palladino

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.