* University of Wyoming press release

LARAMIE -- The Butkus Award released on Thursday its 2023 collegiate preseason watch list. The Butkus Award honors the best linebacker in the nation each season. A total of 51 of the top linebackers in college football were named to this year’s watch list as a nod to the number 51 pro jersey worn by the award’s namesake, Dick Butkus, who is a member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

University of Wyoming junior linebacker Easton Gibbs is one of those individuals.

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Candidates on the college Butkus Award watch list are from 44 schools. The award semifinalists are expected to be named Oct. 30 with finalists to follow Nov. 20. The winner will be named on or before Dec. 6.  Appearing on the watch list is not a requirement to win the award.

“I am always excited about seeing our great watch list players on the field,” said Butkus. “When an outstanding player receives the Butkus Award he will know two things: First, he is recognized as the best of the best linebackers in America; Second, and in the long run most important, he will understand this recognition brings a responsibility of giving back.”

All 2023 Butkus Award winners will be honored at a televised event in Jan. 2024.  BTN (the Big Ten Network) aired the event last season, featuring Butkus and numerous noted NFL Alumni.


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Gibbs was selected as the 2023 Mountain West Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in voting by MW media at Mountain West Media Days in July. He has also been named a ‘23 Preseason First Team All-Mountain selection by MW media, Athlon Sports and Phil Steele.

As a sophomore in 2022, Gibbs was named First Team All-Mountain West in voting by Mountain West head coaches and media at the conclusion of the season. A Temecula, Calif. native, Gibbs ranked No. 3 in the conference and 22nd nationally in tackles for the 2022 season, averaging 9.3 tackles per game. He recorded the first 100-tackle season of his career, with 121. He became only the 61st Cowboy in the 126-year history of Cowboy Football to record 100 tackles in a single season.

Gibbs’ 121 tackles tied him with former UW linebackers Bruce Mowry (1983) and Jim Talich (1997) for the 18th best single-season tackle total in school history. Gibbs posted double figures in tackles in six games during the 2022 season. In 2022, he became the third Wyoming linebacker to earn First Team All-Mountain West honors in the last four consecutive seasons, following current Cincinnati Bengal Logan Wilson (2019) and current Jacksonville Jaguar Chad Muma (2020 and ‘21).

Gibbs becomes the third Wyoming linebacker to be named to the Butkus Award Watch List since 2019. Former Cowboy linebacker Wilson was named to the Butkus Award Watch List in 2019 and went on to be one of six finalists for the award.

Cowboy linebacker Muma was selected to the watch list in 2021 and, like Wilson, went on to be named one of six finalists for the 2021 Butkus Award.

Founded in 1985, the Butkus Award honors linebackers at three levels (high school, college and NFL) while supporting causes important to the Butkus family. Causes include the 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.

A 51-member expert panel of coaches, scouts, and journalists guides the selection process. Past winners of the collegiate award include such greats as Patrick Willis, Von Miller, Luke Kuechly, Devin White, Roquan Smith and many more. The Butkus Award is increasingly focused on recognizing linebackers who consistently play off the ball on their feet in a two-point stance in traditional form.

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