It's likely that William & Mary will not soon forget Luke Rhodes.
The senior linebacker already established himself as one of the best players in school history before a singular achievement this preseason. He is the only player from FCS to make the 51-player watch list for the Butkus Award, presented to the nation's best linebacker.
"I was honored, humbled," Rhodes told ASN's Monica McNutt at CAA Football media day Tuesday in Baltimore. "It's really a team defensive award for us I think."
Honors are nothing new to Rhodes, who was named to the STATS FCS Preseason All-America First Team and the 22-player watch list for the STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year. As a two-time team captain, the senior linebacker is the 11th Tribe player to earn the honor multiple times in the program’s 122-year history.
For good reason. The two-time first-team all-CAA Football selection has started all three seasons and totaled 263 tackles, including a team-high 93 in 2014. He also averaged 10 tackles per game against FCS opponents Maryland, Virginia Tech and West Virginia.
"I'm able to use my size and speed to react to things that I've seen on film a hundred times and a take a leadership role in leading the defense so they can be successful as well," the 6-2, 242-pound kinesiology major said during an interview on TribeAthletics.com in April. "I like to have fun, joke around with my teammates. Just relax and have fun."
Rhodes, who will participate in Tuesday's CAA Football Media Day at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, is one of the reasons William & Mary will be a team to watch this season.
The Tribe (7-5 overall, 4-4 conference last season) also returns quarterback Steve Cluely (2,048 yards passing, 11 touchdowns), tailback Mikal Abdul-Saboor (1,266 yards, 12 touchdowns) and safety Jared Velasquez, the team’s second-leading tackler last season.
And the linebacker with the singular achievement has a singular goal this season — beat Richmond in the regular-season finale on Nov. 21 at Richmond.
"One of the hardest lessons I've learned on the field is losing to Richmond (34-20 last season and 31-20 in 2013)," Rhodes said. "The past two seasons have come down to playoff implications and both times we've come out on the bottom.
"We look to use that to our advantage, stay hungry, get ready to go and perform all season so the last game is just another game and we can just dominate."
On the cover: William & Mary linebacker Luke Rhodes makes one of his eight tackles against James Madison last season. (Jim Agnew/William and Mary Tribe Athletics)