Illinois senior linebacker Mason Monheim was picked to the preseason watch lists for the 2015 Rotary Lombardi Award and 2015 Butkus Award on Tuesday. Eligibility for the Rotary Lombardi Award is limited to down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, or linebackers who set up no farther than five yards deep from the line of scrimmage. The Butkus Award, named after Fighting Illini legend Dick Butkus, goes to the nation's top linebacker.
Monheim enters 2015 with 294 career tackles, which ranks as the second-most among active FBS players. The four-year starter is coming off a Honorable Mention All-Big Ten campaign in 2014, highlighted by career highs in tackles (111), TFLs (6.5), passes defended (4) and forced fumbles (4). He led the Big Ten and ranked 17th in FBS in fumbles forced per game (0.31).
Monheim made an immediate impact at Illinois, being named to Phil Steele's second-team freshman All-America team in his debut season. He has increased his total tackles each season at Illinois, leading the entire Illinois squad and all Big Ten freshmen in tackles with 86 in 2012, tallying 97 tackles in 2013 and 111 tackles in 2014.
The 46th Rotary Lombardi Award will be held on December 9, 2015 at the Bayou Music Center in Houston, Texas.
The Butkus Award watch list contains 51 candidates, honoring the retired professional jersey of Dick Butkus, who is regarded by NFL Films as the best defensive player in football history. A selection panel of 51 deeply experienced coaches, evaluators and journalists will narrow the field by private ballot. Semi-finalists will be named November 2, finalists November 23, and winners will be notified on or before December 8. Players who do not appear on the watch list are eligible for the Award.