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The junior middle linebacker on Monday was named one of five Butkus Award finalists. Chad Leistikow

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — Josey Jewell, one of college football’s best linebackers, is likely to return to Iowa for his senior season.

While not definitively shutting the door on turning pro early, the fourth-year junior said Tuesday he hadn't given it serious consideration.

“I don’t think I’ll be leaving,” Jewell told the Des Moines Register. “I think everything’s staying here. I just haven’t thought about it too much. I don’t think it’s really a pressing issue. I just want to play the best ball I can here and just keep on going.”

Jewell ranks second in tackles this season in the Big Ten Conference, with 105, and on Monday was named one of five finalists for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker.

The 6-foot-2, 235-pound native of Decorah is Iowa’s first Butkus finalist since Larry Station in 1985.

With that type of notoriety, Jewell understands why the NFL question would come up.

“I’ve heard it here and there,” he said. “But you just try to stay focused on the week ahead of you and try to take it day by day.”

Jewell’s return would be significant for the Hawkeyes' 2017 prospects: He’s revered as a team leader, and he is the only player in Kirk Ferentz’s 18 years as the team's head coach to be named permanent team captain as a sophomore.

Jewell’s 282 career tackles rank 19th in the program's history.

There’s another good reason for Jewell to stay in Iowa City for another year: The environmental studies/business major is planning to get his degree following the Fall 2017 semester.

“I could graduate,” Jewell said, “but I just chose to graduate next fall.”

WATCH MORE from Tuesday's press conference:

  • Josey Jewell on Butkus honor, Iowa future
    Josey Jewell on Butkus honor, Iowa future
  • C.J. Beathard on what Iowa's 14 seniors have endured
    C.J. Beathard on what Iowa's 14 seniors have endured
  • Desmond King on what he's proudest of
    Desmond King on what he's proudest of
  • Jaleel Johnson gets compared to a former Hawkeye now starring in NFL
    Jaleel Johnson gets compared to a former Hawkeye now starring in NFL
  • Which Nebraska quarterback is Iowa preparing to defend?
    Which Nebraska quarterback is Iowa preparing to defend?
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