Maryland linebacker E.J. Henderson last night continued his run of postseason honors, winning the Butkus Award, presented annually to the nation's top linebacker by the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando.

"I think this is very special," Henderson said after winning the award. "This is the defensive Heisman to me. I'll be very proud to take this award and put it in the team house."

It was the second consecutive award-winning night for Henderson. On Thursday, he was presented with the Chuck Bednarik Award, one of two honors given to the nation's best defensive player.

Henderson is the first Terrapin since Randy White in 1974 to win major postseason awards.

"It's a very big deal," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said. "I think it was one of the goals E.J. had set for himself when he came back. It's a tremendous thing for our football program. I think he's very deserving of it. In my opinion, he should have won it last year. I'm very happy for E.J. He has had an excellent career and this is one of the crowning jewels in it."

The other finalists for this season's award were Teddy Lehman of Oklahoma and Courtney Watson of Notre Dame.

Henderson was previously named the ACC defensive player of the year for the second consecutive season after leading the Terrapins to a 10-3 record and a berth in the Peach Bowl against Tennessee on Dec. 31. He led the team with 163 tackles (151/2 for loss) and tied for the team lead with 61/2 sacks.

"He ranks right up there with the best," Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer said yesterday afternoon. "I've been on the road recruiting, so I haven't watched much tape. But he's one of those guys who all you need to watch is a little bit of tape to see he's a dominating player."

Earlier this week, Henderson was a finalist for the Lombardi Award, given to the best lineman, and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given to the best defensive player.

Recent winners of the Butkus Award include Oklahoma's Rocky Calmus, Miami's Dan Morgan, Penn State's LaVar Arrington, Southern California's Chris Claiborne and Ohio State's Andy Katzenmoyer.