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Olakunle Fatukasi named to Bednarik Award Watch List

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The Scarlet Knight linebacker is one of the top defensive players nationally entering the 2021 season.

NCAA Football: Washington at Rutgers Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Chuck Bednarik Award is handed out each year to the best defensive player in college football. It is named after Bednarik, who starred at both linebacker and center for the University of Penn then the Philadelphia Eagles at the NFL level.

Previous winners of the award include the likes of Julius Peppers, Charles Woodson, Aaron Donald, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, Chase Young, and most recently in 2020, Zaven Collins. On Monday, a member of the Scarlet Knights was named to the watch list heading into the season.

Rutgers’ Olakunle Fatukasi earned a spot on the Bednarik Award watch list presented by Mammoth Tech on Monday.

In 2020, Fatukasi led the Big Ten with 101 tackles and finished ninth in the nation averaging 11.2 tackles per game. He totaled double-digit tackles in six games, including an 18-tackle performance against Penn State. Fatukasi also logged three sacks, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble.

This is not the first time that Fatukasi has been linked to Bednarik’s name. In the season-opener against Michigan State, Fatukasi finished with 10 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and a forced fumble. He was named the Bednarik Award National Player of the Week and Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week after the performance.

Fatukasi was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award in 2020. This honors the best linebacker in the nation over the course of the season. The Scarlet Knights received a boost when Fatukasi decided to return to Rutgers for another season. This gives the team their best defensive player and leader back in the middle.

The Scarlet Knights open their season on Sept. 2 when Temple takes a trip to SHI Stadium. Fatukasi will enter the season as one of the leaders for Rutgers and has a chance to make some noise nationally as one of the top defenders in the country.