Butler Named Semifinalist for Thorpe Award

Nov. 4, 2003

Georgia Tech free safety James Butler is one of 12 semifinalists announced Tuesday for the 2003 Jim Thorpe Award, presented annually to the nation’s best college defensive back.

Butler, a junior from Climax, Ga., leads the Atlantic Coast Conference in interceptions with five, ranking ninth in the nation. He is Tech’s third-leading tackler with 77, along with three tackles for loss, three fumbles forced, four pass breakups and one blocked field goal.

The 12 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award are:

Jamaal Brimmer, UNLV, S, Jr.; Josh Bullocks, Nebraska, S, So.; James Butler, Georgia Tech, S, Jr.; Jason David, Washington St. C, Sr.; DeAngelo Hall, Virginia Tech, C, Jr.; Keiwan Ratliff, Florida, C, Sr.; Stuart Schweigert, Purdue, S, Sr.; Derrick Strait, Oklahoma, C, Sr.; Sean Taylor, Miami (Fla), S, Sr.; Mark Walker, TCU, S, Jr.; Corey Webster, LSU, C, Sr.; Darrent Williams, OSU, C, Jr.

Three finalists will be selected November 25. The winner will be announced on ESPN’s College Football Awards Show, broadcast from Disney World on December 11. Formal presentation of the award will be in Oklahoma City, at the annual Jim Thorpe Awards ceremonies, February 9, 2004.

The Thorpe Award has been presented since 1986, based on performance on the field, athletic ability and character. A “Screening Committee” of the Jim Thorpe Association researches and follows the performances of defensive backs as they compete through the season. The committee determines the semi-finalists the first week in November and will select three finalists the Monday before Thanksgiving. A nationwide panel of former coaches, players and sportswriters and sportscasters then votes to select the winner.

Voted the 20th century’s greatest athlete in a poll by ABC’s Wide World of Sports, Jim Thorpe was a two-time All-American running back and defensive back, the winner of decathlon and pentathlon gold medals in the 1912 Olympics, and a standout in both professional football and baseball. He was the first president of what became the National Football League.

Previous winners include: Terence Newman, Kansas State, 2002; Roy Williams, Oklahoma, 2001; Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin, 2000; Tyrone Carter, Minnesota, 1999; Antoine Winfield, Ohio State, 1998; Charles Woodson, Michigan, 1997; Lawrence Wright, Florida, 1996; Greg Meyers, Colorado State, 1995; Chris Hudson, Colorado, 1994; Antonio Langham, Alabama, 1993; Deon Figures, Colorado, 1992; Terrell Buckley, Florida State, 1991; Darryll Lewis, Arizona, 1990; Mark Carrier, USC, 1989; Deion Sanders, Florida State, 1988; Bennie Blades, Miami, and Rickey Dixon, Oklahoma (tie) 1987; and Thomas Everett, Baylor, 1986.

The 1998 Thorpe Award winner, Antoine Winfield of Ohio State, was also coached by current Tech defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Jon Tenuta.

Butler is the third Tech player to be a semifinalist for the Thorpe Award but the first since Willie Clay in 1991. Tech’s Ken Swilling finished third in the balloting for the award in 1990.

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