Dec. 6, 2006
HOUSTON (AP) - Michigan defensive end LaMarr Woodley won the Rotary Lombardi Award as the nation's top college lineman or linebacker Wednesday night, becoming the first Wolverine to win the honor.
The 6-foot-2, 269-pound Woodley was the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Year after ranking among the nation's leaders in sacks (11), tackles for loss (15.5) and forced fumbles (4).
The other three finalists were Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny, Ohio State defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock and Texas offensive guard Justin Blalock. Posluszny also was a finalist last season. Woodley and Posluszny are also finalists for this season's Bednarik Award, honoring the nation's top defensive player.
Woodley is the eighth Big Ten player to win the Lombardi award. Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk won last season and Ohio State offensive guard Orlando Pace won it in 1995 and 1996.
Woodley and the other finalists arrived in Houston earlier this week and attended several events together leading up to Wednesday's award ceremony.
Woodley and Pitcock didn't talk about the Buckeyes' 42-39 win over the Wolverines on Nov. 18 or the final Bowl Championship Series standings that made Florida (12-1), not Michigan, Ohio State's opponent in the national championship game on Jan. 8.
The Wolverines (11-1) will play Southern Cal (10-2) in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1. Woodley said he'll root for the Buckeyes (12-0) a week later.
"If Ohio State wins, then everyone will say, 'Well, Michigan should've been the team that played them,"' Woodley said Wednesday before the presentation. "And being that Ohio State is in my conference and they're representing us, I've got to go with Ohio State. You can't turn your back on your conference."
Woodley said the Wolverines have shaken off the disappointment of getting snubbed by the BCS rankings.
"Guys were down a little bit, but we have to understand that we put ourselves in that situation," Woodley said. "We allowed other people to control our destiny. If we would've come out, won in Columbus, taken care of our business, it would've never come down to that.
"It was right in our hands," he said. "But the only thing you can do is move on. Nothing's going to change."
Woodley took consolation in winning the Lombardi Award, initiated by Houston's Rotary Club in 1970. The award originated shortly after its Hall of Fame namesake - Vince Lombardi - died of cancer.
"It shows the hard work that myself and my team have done all season," Woodley said. "And it means a lot that I'll be the first one in Michigan history to bring it home."
The design of the 40-pound trophy - a block of granite mounted on a steel base - is a nod to Lombardi's college playing days. Before guiding the Green Bay Packers to victories in the first two Super Bowls, Lombardi was an offensive guard at Fordham in the 1930s, part of a front line nicknamed the "Seven Blocks of Granite."
About 500 college coaches, former finalists and media members voted for the annual award. The Rotary Club doesn't release a breakdown of the votes.
The 6-foot-2, 238-pound Posluszny won the Butkus and Bednarik trophies last year and is a finalist for both again this year. The Butkus award recognizes the nation's best linebacker.
The 6-3 Pitcock leads the Buckeyes with eight sacks and 11 tackles for loss heading into the Florida game. He was trying to become the sixth Ohio State player to win the award.
The 6-4, 329-pound Blalock set a Texas record with 50 consecutive starts and has not allowed a sack in 27 games. Blalock is also a finalist for the Outland Trophy, honoring the nation's top interior lineman.