Another week, another Johnny Newton headline.
The junior DL has been as good as advertised, as he is now one of just 12 semifinalists for the coveted Rotary Lombardi Award.
This accolade is annually given to the best college football lineman of the year. The first award was given out in 1970.
When taking candidates into consideration, the program looks for a player “who best embodies the values and spirit of NFL’s legendary coach Vince Lombardi.”
Of the semifinalists, Newton is the only defensive tackle. Other notable players include Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt and Alabama outside linebacker Dallas Turner.
Past winners include NFL Hall of Famers Warren Sapp, Orlando Pace (twice) and when the award branched out to all positions from 2017-20, Joe Burrow even won it. Not too bad of company to be around.
So far this season, Newton has tallied 35 tackles, 4 1/2 tackles for loss, 3 1/2 sacks, two pass breakups, two blocked kicks (tied for national lead) and one forced fumble.
According to PFF, he’s currently tied for the lead with 31 quarterback pressures among defensive tackles in all of college football.
On top of that, Newton has played more snaps than any other Power Five defensive tackle in the nation by averaging more than 62 per game.
This award started as recognition to only interior line positions that Vince Lombardi played while he was an undergraduate at Fordham University, offensive and defensive guard.
This later expanded to include linebackers and tight ends, with the addition of including non-performance values such as leadership, courage, desire, respect for authority, and discipline.
The Ohio State University currently holds the record for most Lombardi awards with six. Newton would be the first winner in the history of Illinois football.
Already a preseason and midseason All-American, this would just be the cherry on top to a phenomenal 2023 campaign for the Illinois captain.
A group of four finalists will have be named on Nov. 15, while the winner of the 50th Lombardi Award will be given out at a banquet on Dec. 6 in Houston, Texas.