Nov. 20, 2001
UCLA senior middle linebacker Robert Thomas has been named one of five finalists for Football News Defensive Player of the Year. The other finalists are linebacker E.J. Henderson of Maryland, end Dwight Freeney of Syracuse, safety Edward Reed of Miami (Fla.) and safety Roy Williams of Oklahoma.
Thomas, a 2001 Butkus Award finalist, is the anchor of the defensive unit at middle linebacker and the leading tackler in the Pac-10.
On the year, Thomas, whom coach Bob Toledo compares to a cobra because of his quick-strike ability, leads the Bruins with a career-high 106 tackles (72 solos and 34 assists). Twenty-four of his tackles have been for losses, breaking the UCLA single-season record of 22 set by Marvcus Patton of the Kansas City Chiefs. He is first in the Pac-10 in tackles (10.60) and tackles for loss (2.40) and eighth in sacks (0.6). He leads UCLA in tackles and tackles for loss and is second on the team in sacks (5.5).
In addition, he has 39 tackles for loss during his career, tying him for second place on that UCLA career list. Only Carnell Lake (45.5) ever made more tackles for loss. He has also made 288 tackles and ranks 13th on that career list.
Against USC, he recorded his 23rd tackle for loss, a new school record, on the first play of the game. He finished the afternoon tied for the team lead with seven tackles, including two for loss, and also forced a fumble. He has led the Bruins in tackles in nine straight games.