Iowa's Jack Campbell becomes first Hawkeye to win Butkus Award for nation's top linebacker

Kennington Lloyd Smith III
Des Moines Register

For the first time, an Iowa Hawkeye has won the Butkus Award as college football’s top linebacker.

There was little doubt that Iowa senior Jack Campbell would walk away with the hardware after his stellar 2022 season. Campbell joined fellow Hawkeyes Larry Station (second place in 1985) and Josey Jewell (2016) as the only finalists in school history. Campbell beat out 2022 finalists Jamon Dumas-Johnson (Georgia), Daiyan Henly (Washington State), Ivan Pace Jr. (Cincinnati) and Drew Sanders (Arkansas) for the award.

Campbell is also the first Big Ten player to win the award since James Laurinaitis (Ohio State) in 2007. His Butkus Award caps off an impressive run of postseason accolades including All-Big Ten first-team honors, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Linebacker of the Year and winning the William V. Campbell Trophy, recognizing an individual as the best in the nation for combined academic success, football performance and exemplary leadership. The All-American teams will be announced soon and Campbell will surely be included.

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A former three-star prospect from Cedar Falls, Campbell will leave Iowa's program as one of the best linebackers in school history. He became a starter during the COVID-shortened 2020 season and never looked back. Since then, he's started in 31 consecutive games, helped lead the Hawkeyes to the 2021 Big Ten West title and is a part of one of the winningest senior classes in school history.

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell will leave Iowa City as one of the best to ever play the position for the Hawkeyes

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"An exceptional player, exceptional team member on top of it," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz of Campbell in November. "To me, that's where the double value is. That's what good players do, they not only play well but they also make the guys around them play better. He's definitely done that. Whether it's on the field, off the field, away from the building, it's not hard to like everything he does. A top-notch guy.

"He's a special player. He just kept getting better. Like his high school basketball career, I always joke about that, where it took him four minutes to get five fouls as a sophomore. Then he became a pretty good high school basketball player on a really good team. He's done the same thing in football. He just improves with every opportunity. He's just a leader because of who he is. I think everybody just respects so much who he is and how he does things."

More:Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell named Big Ten's top defensive player

The Butkus Award selection committee, comprised of 51 experts, including professional, college and high school scouts, and prominent sports journalists, conduct the selection process.

Before the 2022 season, Pro Football Focus named Campbell the No. 3 linebacker prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft. His all-time senior season will only help his draft stock this coming spring. The best player for the Hawkeyes isn't done though. He won't opt-out of Iowa's Music City Bowl (Dec. 31 at 11 am), choosing to play one more time and potentially end his college career with another win.