Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith wins Butkus Award

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame junior linebacker Jaylon Smith has been named the 2015 Butkus Award winner for college football's best linebacker, the school announced Tuesday.

"I haven't coached a player like him before, period," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said of Smith earlier this season. "He can line up with his hand on the ground. He can cover the inside receiver. He can play in the box. He can tackle in open space. There's not much he can't do.

"He's a rare, rare defensive player. It's just fun watching him play."

A 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior, Smith finished with a team-high 113 tackles in 2015, 48 more than the team's second-leading tackler (Joe Schmidt). He joined Manti Te'o as the second Irish player in the Brian Kelly Era to surpass 100 tackles in consecutive seasons. Te'o also took home the award in 2012.

Smith, a Fort Wayne native, added nine tackles for loss and a team-high five pass break ups in his junior season. He was named a first-team USA Today All-American on Tuesday as well.

One of five team captains, Smith will lead CFP and AP No. 8 Notre Dame (10-2) into the Fiesta Bowl against CFP and AP No. 7 Ohio State (11-1) on Jan. 1.

Jaylon Smith has been named the 2015 Butkus Award winner for College Football's Top Linebacker. #Team127pic.twitter.com/tq00ogXo84

— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) December 8, 2015

For every Butkus Award winner, there is someone behind the scenes getting destroyed by @JaeeSmiff9ENT in warm ups. You're welcome Jaylon

— Nick Ossello (@nickossello) December 8, 2015

Nothing but a great sight to see Jaylon win the Butkus award.

— Jay Hayes (@JayHayesNY) December 8, 2015

As is Butkus Award tradition, it was presented in surprise fashion. Today's during a team workout with @NDFBStrengthpic.twitter.com/gB6KNBpvKz

— Leigh Torbin (@LTorbin) December 8, 2015

@JaeeSmiff9ENThttps://t.co/k3n2rDR0Fg

— lOUIS NIX III (@1irishchocolate) December 8, 2015

My talent, His glory

— Jaylon Smith (@JaeeSmiff9ENT) December 8, 2015

The Irish coaches feel Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith (9) must do more than lead by example. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)