He's the reigning MEAC Defensive Player of the Year and now South Carolina State senior linebacker Darius Leonard finds himself on a list with college football's heavyweights as they up for a national award.

Leonard joins Skai Moore from USC and Kendall Joseph from Clemson on the 51-player watch list for the Butkus Award. The award is named after former Chicago Bear Dick Butkus who wore the #51. A 51-person panel compiled the list of candidates for the award which is presented by the Butkus Foundation.

Leonard led the MEAC with 124 tackles and finished 4th in the FCS with 78 solo tackles. He also added14.5 tackles for a loss of 64 yards, 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, five pass deflections, four forced fumbles (8th in FCS) and two blocked kicks. Leonard also scored two touchdowns for the Bulldogs, one on offense and one on defense.

Leonard will try to equal former Bulldog Javon Hargrave by winning back-to-back MEAC Defensive Player of the Year awards. With current Green Bay Packer Joe Thomas, Jr. winning in 2013, S.C. State is the first school in MEAC history to win four consecutive MEAC Defensive Player of the Year awards.

The Butkus Award is handed out to players in the NFL, college and high school. Spring Valley linebacker Channing Tindall is on the watch list for the high school award.