Horn Lake High School not only has the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) 6A state football championship trophy, but is now the home of the latest Dick Butkus Award winner in senior linebacker Nakobe Dean.
The football Eagles, which last Friday night won the state championship 31-27 over Oak Grove, were surprised by the appearance of Matt Butkus, the son of the Chicago Bears’ Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, for whom the award is named.
Matt Butkus had come to Horn Lake to present the award a day following a similar presentation to Devin White of LSU, who was named the college Butkus Award winner.
Dean thanked his teammates in accepting the award.
“You all are my support system,” Dean said. “I couldn’t do any of this without the guys. I love y’all!”
The Butkus Award process started early in the football season with a Watch List of top linebackers across the country being named. The list was culled down to a final five last month with the final decision being announced on Wednesday.
Dick Butkus played professionally for his hometown Chicago Bears after being drafted in 1965. The University of Illinois product was a two-time All American for the Fighting Illini and as a pro was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979,
After a career in sportscasting and acting, Butkus has become active in philanthropy through the Butkus Foundation, which manages various charitable causes and sponsors the annual award.
After being given the trophy and getting some photographs taken, Dean fielded a phone call from Dick Butkus.
“You’re a heck of a player, man,” Butkus said. “I hope you carry on with your career and welcome to the club.”
Matt Butkus said afterward that Dean is a great selection for the award.
“Nakobe is tenacious and quick,” Butkus said. “He has a lot of speed needed in today’s game, he has a knack for the ball and knows where to be at the right time.”
Horn Lake coach Brad Boyette added Dean has never been about the accolades, only about the team and what he could do to help them win.
“We see it from him every single day,” Boyette said. “His focus was always on the task of his team being 1-0 for the week. Anything else he saw as a distraction and he blocked it out.”
Dean continues to keep close to the vest where he plans to play college football, but did say he has it down to a final five schools, all in the SEC. The senior said he would be visiting LSU this weekend and will meet with his now fellow Butkus Award winner White.
He does still plan on signing on the first day of the early signing period, Wednesday, Dec. 19.
Bob Bakken is Sports Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.