Orlando, Fla., Aug. 21, 2003 - Penn State senior Gino Capone (Ashland, Pa.) and junior Derek Wake (Beltsville, Md.) have been named to the 2003 Butkus Award Watch List. The award, presented by the Dowtown Athletic Club of Orlando, is presented annually to college football's most outstanding linebacker.
Capone, a 2002 second-team All-Big Ten selection, is entering his second season as a starter at middle linebacker. He will lead a strong Penn State linebacking unit that returns all its starters from last season. With 86 stops last fall, including 59 solo, Capone is the team's top returning tackler. He ranked third on the team in 2002 despite missing the last three regular season games with a "burner." Capone also recorded two sacks, three tackles for loss, and interception and two pass breakups for a defense that allowed just 17.4 ppg in 2002.
Capone came up big in Penn State's biggest games last year posting a career best 15 tackles at Ohio State, 13 at Michigan and 12 against Iowa. An excellent student who graduated in 3 1/2 years with a 3.28 grade-point average, he is a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and earned Verizon Academic All-District honors last season.
Wake, who is entering his third season as a starter at outside linebacker, returned from a season ending knee injury in the opening contest of the 2001 season to post a solid junior campaign in 2002. A highly gifted athlete with big play potential, he posted 51 tackles last fall, including 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. Wake proved his durability starting 10 of the Lion's 12 games in 2002, including a terrific outing against Ohio State in which he posted a career high 11 tackles, four tackles for loss and a sack.
An outstanding leaper, he has also established himself as one of the nation's premier kick blockers having knocked down five on his career (3 FG, 2 PAT), including four in 2002.
The Butkus Award, named for one of football's greatest middle linebackers Dick Butkus, has been awarded since 1985 and is regarded as one of the most elite individual honors in college football. LaVar Arrington became the first Penn Stater to win the award in 1999 and was joined by Brandon Short as a finalist, marking the first time one school had two finalists for the honor. All-Americans Shane Conlan (1986) and Andre Collins (1989) have also been finalists for Penn State.
An independent selection committee comprised of 26 of the nation's foremost media members conducts the voting for the Butkus Award. Wake and Capone are among 10 Big Ten players named to the Watch List, which includes 90 noteworthy candidates representing schools from across the nation. It will be trimmed to 10 semi-finalists on Oct. 16, and three finalists will be announced on Nov. 13. The winner will be announced Dec. 12 at the Butkus Award Gala in Orlando, Fla.