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Aug. 28, 2007
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior All-America linebacker Dan Connor (Wallingford) is on the preliminary list of candidates for the 2007 Butkus Award, announced today by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando (DACO).
The prestigious award was created in 1985 and is presented annually by DACO to the national's top collegiate linebacker. It is named after former Chicago Bear and Pro Football Hall of Fame member, Dick Butkus.
A pair of "Linebacker U" standouts are previous winners of the Butkus Award. Paul Posluszny became Penn State's second Butkus Award winner, in 2005, and LaVar Arrington captured the award following the 1999 season. Posluszny was also was one of three finalists for the award last year.
Connor teamed with Posluszny and Sean Lee last year to form one of the top linebacker units in the nation. A 2007 team tri-captain, Connor was second on the team and fifth in the Big Ten with 113 total tackles and he led the team with 70 solo tackles. He also had nine tackles for loss, five sacks, including a safety, two pass break-ups, and three forced fumbles.
For his outstanding 2006 season, he earned first team All-American honors from the The Sporting News and second-team All-American honors from the Associated Press. In doing so, he became the 13th linebacker under head coach Joe Paterno to earn first team All-American accolades, joining an elite list that includes past standouts such as Dennis Onkotz, Jack Ham, Greg Buttle, Shane Conlan, Brandon Short, Arrington and Posluszny.
The former Strath Haven High School standout also was the only junior finalist for the 2006 Bednarik Award as he joined Posluszny, who won the award for the second consecutive year. Connor is a consensus preseason All-American and was rated the nation's No. 1 middle linebacker by Phil Steele's 2007 College Football Preview and the No. 2 defensive impact player in the nation by ESPN's Joe Schad.
Connor's 274 career tackles entering this season places him in a tie for fifth place on the all-time Penn State list and just 98 away from the record of 372 that Posluszny set last year.
The Butkus Award Watch List will be trimmed to 10 semi-finalists and announced on Thursday, October 18. That list will be cut down once again to three finalists, which will be announced on Thursday, November 9. The winner will be announced in December in Orlando, Fla.
Joe Paterno's 42nd Nittany Lion team returns 15 starters and 32 letterwinners for the 2007 season, which launches with "Penn State Football Eve, presented by Sheetz" on Friday, August 31 in Beaver Stadium. Stadium gates will open at 6:00 p.m. and festivities inside the stadium begin at 7:45 p.m. Admission and parking are free.
The No. 17 Nittany Lions' 121st season opener is Sept. 1 against Florida International at 12:00 p.m. in Beaver Stadium. The contest will air on the Big Ten Network, the Penn State Sports Network and www.GoPSUsports.com, the official website of Penn State Athletics.