UNITED STATES—The heartbeat of UCLA’s defense finally received his due recognition.

Since 2012, Eric Kendricks has very quietly amassed three consecutive 100 tackle seasons, culminating in a 2014 performance in which he totaled 132 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

On December 9, Kendricks was paid a special visit by NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Dick Butkus, who presented the senior with the Butkus award, given to the nation’s best linebacker.

The award presentation came by way of a surprise ceremony in which Kendricks was honored before teammates, coaches, and family.

Stated the Butkus selection committee: “He has been overlooked much of his career despite being an extremely productive tackling machine and opportunistic playmaker against the run and pass. His exceptional instincts, motor, toughness and football intelligence distinguished his play. His integrity, selflessness and leadership embody what the Butkus Award represents.”

Indeed, Kendricks has spent much of his career overshadowed by the likes of Anthony Barr, picked ninth overall in the 2014 NFL draft and Myles Jack, who in 2013 took the nation by storm as a freshmen two-way sensation.

He’s even had to compete to stand-out in his own family. Eric’s brother, Mychal, is a standout linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles and is considered one of the best defensive playmakers on his division-leading team.

Adding fuel to the fire of Kendricks’ underdog story, University of Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright, named first-team All-Pac-12 over Kendricks and awarded the Bronco Nagurski Troohy as the nation’s best defensive player, didn’t even make the list of five finalists. However, Wright, was one of a record eight write-in nominations for the Butkus, speaking volumes to the competition Kendricks faced in winning the award.

But after a close vote, it was Kendricks, who took to Twitter to share his joy and an inspirational message:

"Overwhelmed with joy. This is for all my underdogs out there! Thanksfamily/friends/teammates/coaches/BUTKUS/UCLA"
“Overwhelmed with joy. This is for all my underdogs out there! Thanksfamily/friends/teammates/coaches/BUTKUS/UCLA”

The final chapter of Kendricks Bruins career will take place on January 2, where UCLA will close its season with an Alamo Bowl match-up with Kansas State. After that, Kendricks will likely prepare for the NFL Draft, giving him an opportunity to join his brother amongst the ranks of NFL linebackers.