The list of the winners of the Butkus Award, given annually since 1985 to college football’s top linebacker, includes a Pro Football Hall of Famer (Derrick Thomas), current All-Pros (Patrick Willis and Von Miller), a two-time recipient whose N.F.L. career flamed out quickly (Brian Bosworth) and, this year, a finalist for the Heisman Trophy (Manti Te’o).
Even in such an eclectic group, Paul McGowan still stands out.
McGowan is the only past winner of the award never to have played a down in the N.F.L. (Te’o, who won the Butkus on Monday, has not either, though that is almost certain to change once he leaves Notre Dame.)
“You do the best you can and let the chips fall,” said McGowan, 46, who played nine years in the Canadian, World and Arena leagues after winning the award at Florida State in 1987. “It didn’t happen; you move on.”