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Lott IMPACT Trophy Pre-Season Watch List Highlights Best of College Football

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Forty-two players were tabbed on the initial watch list for the 2012 Lott IMPACT Trophy, released Tuesday afternoon.

A neat twist to this award, heading into its ninth season of existence and named for USC-turned-NFL legend Ronnie Lott, is that it factors off-field endeavors along with in-game exploits. That facet is expressed in the acronym IMPACT: Integrity, Maturity, Performance, Academics, Community, Tenacity.

By honoring both sides of the game, the Lott IMPACT Trophy exemplifies what’s right with college football. Headlines emanating from the sport vary in their magnitude, but all seem to be negative. Taking a cue from Don Henley’s 1980s hit, we want dirty laundry. Things seem dire enough to shut football down altogether, according to some.

Football’s positives sometimes go unheralded in this if-it-bleeds-it-leads atmosphere. And make no mistake, the Lott IMPACT Trophy is as representative of the level play its namesake exhibited at USC. The award’s 2011 winner was Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, last season’s national leader in tackles. Other winners include James Laurinaitis, David Pollack and DeMeco Ryans.

There are no shortage of superstar names featured, including 2011 Lott IMPACT finalist Manti Te’o. The Notre Dame linebacker turned down a likely first or second round selection in last month’s NFL Draft for his senior season playing under the watchful eyes of Touchdown Jesus. Te’o is the brand of leader any coach could build his scheme around, playing a tenacious brand of ball pursuit that becomes a catalyst for the entire defense. Te’o’s leadership exhibited off the field includes work with the Special Olympics and Boys and Girls Club.

Te’o will be in the hunt for every national defensive honor for which he’s eligible. Alongside him will be NC State cornerback David Amerson, the 2011 FBS interceptions leader and Lott IMPACT watch list candidate. His 13 interceptions shattered a program record that stood for more than seven decades, and also set the ACC single season mark.

Oregon safety John Boyett was a Lott IMPACT Trophy nominee a season ago. Boyett led UO in tackles in both 2009 and 2010, and will lead the Duck secondary once more in pursuit of a perfect 4-for-4 on Pacific Conference championships.

Boyett told ESPN.com Pac-12 blog Ted Miller he wants to be the nation’s top safety. In the meantime, UO’s defensive cornerstone is a role model to elementary students in his hometown of Napa, Calif.

Check out the entire watch list here.