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Alfred Williams Claims 1990 Butkus Award As Nation's Top Linebacker

Alfred Williams, the 1990 Butkus Award winner.

Shortly after leading Colorado to its second straight Big Eight title and just under a month before helping the Buffaloes to the 1990 national title, senior linebacker Alfred Williams was named the winner of the annual Butkus Award.

Williams, a 2008 inductee into the Colorado Athletics Hall of Fame, would go on to win a pair of Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos and is a member of the 2010 College Football Hall of Fame class. (Keyed in by CU Student Assistant SID Alex Kaufman).

By Craig Harper
Boulder Daily Camera
(Dec. 5, 1990)

One can only imagine the possibilities for Alfred Williams if University of Colorado football opponents had not focused on keeping him and Kanavis McGhee from making plays on defense this season. 

By doing so, opposing offenses showed their respect for CU’s bookend outside linebackers. 

No doubt the voters of the Butkus Award took that into consideration, for on Tuesday they showed their respect for Williams by naming him the winner of the award given annually to college football’s best linebacker. 

Williams, a senior who already has earned consensus All-America honors and is the Big Eight’s defensive player of the year, edged Illinois’ Darrick Brownlow in voting among five finalists. 

Williams and Brownlow each received six first-place votes, but Williams tallied 31 points to Brownlow’s 28.  Notre Dame’s Michael Stonebreaker was third with 12 points. 

Williams will receive the award in ceremonies Saturday night at the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando, Fla.  Dick Butkus, former star linebacker for Illinois and the Chicago Bears will present the award which bears his name. 

After learning he had won Tuesday morning, Williams did a series of interviews, then was going to call his mother in Houston. 

“She probably doesn’t know who Butkus is,” Williams said.  “I’ll explain, and then tell her we’ve got a trip this weekend.”

Williams said he hopes to take his mother, younger brother and McGhee with him to Orlando.  McGhee was one of four finalists for the Lombardi Award last year. 

He also hopes Brownlow will be present.  “I met him last year at the Playboy All-America team,” Williams said.  “I’ve been watching him all year and he played spectacularly, especially against us.”

Illinois handed top-ranked Colorado its only loss, 23-22, in the Buffs’ third game of the season.  “I wanted to have a better game than him, but I don’t know if I did,” Williams said.  Williams knew he was a finalist for the Butkus Award, but didn’t learn until Tuesday that he had won. 

“I haven’t been able to wipe the smile of my face since I’ve been told, he said.”

Asked if it is the highlight of his career, Williams said, “For an individual award, this would have to be it.  Until the middle of the season, I didn’t think it was important to pay attention to individual awards.”

“I see it as something for our outside linebackers.  I accept it with great appreciation and hope I can give something back to the university.”

Alfred Williams was a two-time Big 8 Defensive Player of the Year and is CU's all-time leader in sacks.

Considering that he saw a good deal more playing time this year than in 1989, Williams’ statistics were down.  While he was in for about 150 more plays, he only had two more sacks (12½) and seven more total tackles (88, including 55 solos).

But that was due primarily to the way teams played the Buffs. 

“I had to overcome three-step passers, double-teams from fullbacks and tackles and sprintouts to get (the quarterback) out of the pocket,” said Williams, who holds CU’s career sacks record with 35. 

“On the run, Kanavis and I haven’t been tested on the perimeter.  That must be a compliment to us, but it was kind of tough to make plays.”

McGhee recalled, “One game I only had two plays come to my side.  I was upset at (position coach Bob) Simmons, (defensive coordinator Mike) Hankwitz and the team  because I wasn’t able to enjoy sharing the success of the team.”

Williams paused, adding, “If nothing else, we helped (nose tackle Joel) Steed and (defensive tackle Garry) Howe become All-Big Eight. They were forced to make plays, and they did.”

Not surprisingly, when asked to recall a play this season that stands out in his mind, Williams said the pass he caught when head coach Bill McCartney let him play tight end late in the regular-season finale with Kansas State. 

“In four years I haven’t had an interception,” he said.  “I didn’t have a chance to show my explosive running skills.”

Williams, who should be a high pick in next spring’s NFL draft, has accepted an invitation to play in the Hula Bowl after CU bids for the national championship in the Jan. 1 Orange Bowl against Notre Dame. 

It is the only post-season all-star game on his agenda.  “I’ve had other offers, but I think I’m going just going to take one,” Williams said.  “I don’t like flying much.  I’m hesitant to take the trip to Hawaii, but I want to show people I can play with the best in the nation.”

Williams also said he probably will attend the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next February.


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