Rodney Butler Named Fourth Team Phil Steele All-American

Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.

CLEVELAND, OH - NM State football senior linebacker Rodney Butler was recently name a Phil Steele Fourth-Team All-American while Jaden Wright and Kourtland Busby were named to the publication's All-Sun Belt Conference Team.

"The honors that Rodney have received are a great reward for a great young man and player," Aggie head coach Doug Martin said. "Leading the nation in tackles is an extraordinary accomplishment and we could not be more proud of Rodney."

This is the first All-American honor for Butler and the second in as many years for the Aggie football program. He joins fellow teammate Larry Rose III, former Aggie kick returner Taveon Rogers and former Aggie wide receiver and Rio Rancho, N.M., native Chris Williams (2008) as the only other players to earn All-American honors from the Phil Steele publication.

Butler, a Palm Springs, Calif., product led the nation in tackles in all but two weeks that he played in this season and finished as the NCAA regular-season leader in tackles with 13.8 per game (165 total). The 6-1 linebacker is the third Aggie in program history to finish the season as the NCAA leader in tackles, joining Jimmy Cottrell (2005, 179) and Derrick Richardson (2008, 137).

At season's end, his 165 total tackles tied Steve Campbell (1991) for third-most in a single-season at New Mexico State while his 379 career tackles ranks him fifth on the all-time list. His 379 total tackles were also good for fourth-best amongst active FBS players in 2016 and 19th in Division I. Meanwhile, his career-average of 8.06 tackles was eighth-most amongst active players in FBS. In addition, his 216 assisted tackles led all active FBS players and 10th in Division I. His 163 solo tackles was good for 37th in the football bowl subdivision while his 44 assisted tackles for loss is good for 27th.

A captain chosen by his peers and the vocal leader for NM State on defense, Butler recorded double-digit tackles in 11-of-12 games this season and was just short of the NCAA single-game tackles record when he posted 24 tackles against Battle of I-25 rival New Mexico at home – a 32-31 victory.

In addition, Butler was named to the Phil Steele All-SBC First-Team while Wright and Busby earned second and third-team distinction, respectively.

"Having Jaden and Kourtland receive second and third team honors are also a great achievement," Martin said. "These things also point to the growth of our program and how in only three recruiting classes our coaches have begun to change this program. In three classes we have produced Larry Rose, a SBC Off player of year and AP All American, and now Rodney leads nation in tackles and is First-Team SBC and getting some All-American honors. Great things are ahead for these guys and NM State football."

Wright finished the year with five interceptions, joining Winston Rose as the last Aggie to record five picks in a single season – also tying for eighth-best in a single-season at NM State. Wright's five picks was also ninth-best in the nation at the end of the regular-season. The junior now has eight career interceptions to his name and needs just one more to crack the top-10 career leaderboard at New Mexico State. The 6-0 defensive back concluded the season fifth on the team with 81 tackles (32 solo). His team-leading four forced fumbles also topped the Sun Belt Conference and good for 12th in the country.

Busby, a junior defensive lineman, nearly tripled his number of tackles this season, tallying 44 in 2016 compared to last season. He has been a mainstay on the Aggie defensive line and was seventh on the team with 44 tackles to go along with his 5.5 tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.

On the other side of the ball, Rose III was led the offensive attack on the ground for NM State with 935 yards gained on the year and tied quarterback Tyler Rogers for the team lead with four touchdowns. He also added 180 reception yards to finish his shortened season with a team-best 1,045 all-purpose yards.

McMeans, who earned All-SBC Honorable Mention for the second-straight year, joined Rose III on the third-team honors list after captaining the Aggie offensive line. The 6-2 McMeans guided an offensive line that allowed the Aggie running corp to rush for 2,412 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2016.