“I’m honored and blessed that something like this could happen for me,” Jordon Dizon said. “But in front of every great linebacker is a great D-Line and supporting every great linebacker are great coaches.”
Dizon joins Penn State senior Dan Connor and Ohio State junior James Laurinaitis as the three finalists for the Butkus. The winner will be announced in December at the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando, the award’s sponsor.
Dizon is the fourth Buff to be named a Butkus finalist. He follows in the footsteps of Alfred Williams (1990), Ted Johnson (1994) and Matt Russell (1996). Williams and Russell went on to be named the winner of the trophy.
The 6-0, 225-pounder from Waimea, Hawaii, was a man without a position when he showed up in Boulder in the summer of 2004. After playing on both sides of the ball in high school, Dizon first got a look at safety as a true freshman in August camp that year. A few days into camp, then-secondary coach Craig Bray suggested Dizon take a practice at linebacker because he showed a physical style suited to the position, and always seemed to be around the ball in defensive drills. The rest is CU linebacker history.
Dizon because the first player to start as a true freshman for longtime CU linebackers coach Brian Cabral. He’s currently fourth all-time on the CU tackles list (413), and he’s been a dynamic player at the position the past three seasons.
Dizon credits Cabral with his success.
“He’s my dad away from my dad,” Dizon said of Cabral. “He taught me everything these last four years, and 99 percent of my success, if not more, should be attributed to him. I was basically an unrecruited running back in high school, but he had confidence in me, saw something in me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get to play linebacker for a Division I team like Colorado in the Big 12.”
Head coach Dan Hawkins was glad to see Dizon among the finalists for the award.
“Jordon is a rock you build championships teams on,” Hawkins said. “He’s everything you want in a player, everything you want in a young man. He’s consistent, he’s tough, he’s humble, he’s a team player, he’s a great leader. He is simply the standard for you want on the field, off the field and in the classroom.
“It’s also gratifying when the right guy advances for the right awards, the right recognition,” Hawkins added. “Nearly every (pro) scout that has come through here this year believes that he’s the best linebacker in the country, and he’s certainly played up to it. He is very deserving.”
Dizon is currently second in the nation in total tackles with 119. (Idaho linebacker David Vobora has 134. Connor has 105, and Laurinaitis has 85).
Dizon has 11 tackles for loss (four quarterback sacks) and 10 tackles for zero, giving him 25 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. He also has 15 third down stops, eight quarterback hurries, two near-sacks, two passes broken up, one forced fumble, a touchdown save, one caused interception and two interceptions, the first two of his career, one of which he returned 42 yards for a touchdown in CU’s 31-26 win at Texas Tech.
In addition, Dizon’s impressive season has come against one of the country’s toughest schedules. CU has played four teams in the top 10 of this week’s BCS standings.
Cabral had an interesting thing to say about his prize pupil.
“One of the most impressive things about Jordon is that the most important thing to him is doing what he’s asked or expected to do,” Cabral said. “Nothing really matters to him other than, ‘Did he please his coaches?’ He’s one of the most complete players I’ve ever coached, and also one of the toughest mentally and physically players I’ve ever coached. He knows only one speed, and he practices as hard as he plays and has always led that way by example. Yet, he is quiet and humble but has learned to be exactly the kind of verbal leader his teammates look up to.”
“I can always count on him teaching and showing the younger players how to do things,” he added. “I have the greatest respect and admiration for how he is so humble, how he just loves playing the game and doing what’s expected of him, both on and off the field.”