Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Howard Wants to Return Butkus Award to Illinois

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Howard Wants to Return Butkus Award to Illinois

Article excerpt

Somehow, symmetrically speaking, it would be fitting that Illinois linebacker Dana Howard tackle the Butkus Award.

Howard, like Butkus, played at the University of Illinois.

And Howard, like Butkus, played at an All-America standard.

Butkus, too, will present the award to the nation's outstanding college linebacker at a black-tie affair tonight in a grand ballroom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

Howard, Colorado's Ted Johnson and Nebraska's Ed Stewart are contenders for the honor, given since 1985 by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando.

"It would be an honor to get the Butkus Award," Howard said recently. "Hopefully I can receive it. If I don't get it, I can't let that be the end of everything. But hopefully I will receive it and bring it back to the University of Illinois.

"I've never met Dick Butkus. It would be exciting - the first time meeting him and meeting him under those circumstances."

The circumstances might make some cower. But the hardy Howard's knees won't knock, after another hard-knock season against the Big Ten Conference's top running backs.

The senior from East St. Louis led the Big Ten in takedowns this season with 141. Colorado's Johnson had 147 tackles, and Nebraska's Stewart 96.

Howard also hurdled the Big Ten record for career tackles with 586.

"Dana was born to be under blockers," Illinois coach Lou Tepper said this season.

Actually he was born to working-class parents Laverne and Jeffery Howard, the youngest of their four children.

But it seemed, after a flirtation with baseball, that Howard was destined to play football.

At least that's a belief he clings to.

It's seemed natural since he was about 9 years old and played for the "little" State Street Oilers against the likes of the Boys Club Bears, the Centreville Colts, the B&F (Cafeteria) Jets. He would play in their games Saturday mornings in Jones Park, then head over to watch his brother, lineman Jeff Howard, play for East St. Louis Senior High.

From there, Dana Howard would go on to play at Clark Junior High and then under Bob Shannon at East St. …

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