By Eric Christensen

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)– Brian Cabral knows a thing or two about coaching inside linebackers. The former CU Buffs linebacker coach for 23 years mentored some of the school’s all-time greats like Butkus award winner Matt Russell.

Brian Cabral (credit: CBS)

“Matt just loved the game,” said Cabral. “He loved all the practice and preparation.”

He also coached a couple of Buffs who were finalists for the Butkus like Ted Johnson.

“He always had great ability,” said Cabral who won a Super Bowl Championship with the Chicago Bears. “He had everything you needed to be a great linebacker.”

And Jordan Dizon.

“Probably the fastest linebacker I ever coached and he had great toughness,” Cabral said.

Now as CU’s character coach, Cabral has the opportunity to size up the reigning Bronco Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week Nate Landman.

(credit: CBS)

“Oh, my goodness, I love watching him play,” said Cabral. “He loves the blood, sweat and tears of what he does.”

The Hammer, as he’s known, is playing the best football of his CU career. He’s won the Pac-12 defensive player of the week twice this season and is coming off a 3 sack, 11 tackle performance vs. San Diego State which earned him 2 national defensive player of the week honors.

Earlier this week, Nate was named a semi-finalist for the Butkus Award.

“He has great instinct and great toughness,” said the former Buff assistant coach and player. “That dude is a rugged dude.”

Time will tell if Landman can follow in the footsteps of some of the CU greats before him but according to Cabral, Nate already has.

(credit: CBS)

“I was there for Russell and several of the finalists and he (Landman) fits right in with that whole crew.”

The Dick Butkus Award is annually given to college football’s top linebacker. The finalists will be announced on Dec. 7 and the winner will be determined on or before Dec. 22.

Eric Christensen