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BRADENTON, Fla. - Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley is a Butkus Award-winning tackling machine whose jolting hits are the loudest thing about him.

To say Mosley is on the quiet side is an understatement. The only thing this young man of few words loathes as much as losing is self-promotion.

"I'm a little outside my comfort zone talking about myself," Mosley, 21, tells USA TODAY Sports. "My game film speaks for me."

It speaks volumes that Alabama coach Nick Saban went out of his way to endorse his 6-2, 234-pound defensive leader who had 108 tackles last season, including nine for loss. And now Mosley is projected as a high first-round draft pick.

"If people evaluate C.J. as a football player — how fast you play; how athletic you are; how instinctive you are and how many plays you make — I would challenge anybody to show me 10 better players," Saban tells USA TODAY Sports.

"He silently works hard, doesn't look for a lot of self gratification from other people — really has fun doing what he does. He understands, though, to have fun and to be confident, you really have to invest time and earn it. He practices that way, plays that way. It is unusual today to find someone who is driven to do well in everything he aspires to."

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And that goes for being a leader — even if it doesn't come naturally for Mosley. Saban looked to Mosley this past season to take on a bigger role in the locker room, and he says Mosley obliged.

"This year's team needed leadership," Saban says. "I brought him in and said, 'C.J., I know you're uncomfortable talking at all. But we need you to develop some relationships, be a leader and affect other people by showing them you're willing to serve them, help them be better players,' And the guy was fabulous.

"Most guys his age would say, 'Oh coach, that's not me.' Not him."

Mosley was the heart and soul of the nation's fourth-ranked scoring defense.

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Dick Butkus, the Hall of Fame Chicago Bears linebacker, surprised Mosley with the award bearing his name as the nation's best linebacker. He fully endorses Mosley as a top prospect.

"Whoever gets C.J. Mosley in the draft is going to be pretty damn lucky," Butkus tells USA TODAY Sports. "C.J. is a serious kid who is not flamboyant. His approach was my approach: 'Go about your business. Let your actions speak for you.'

"Any 4-3 team that wants that talented middle linebacker is going to be really happy with him."

Butkus' former franchise picks 14th and has a void created by Brian Urlacher's retirement a year ago.

"If you want to find C.J. just look for the ball," Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart says. "He is there all the time, a lot like (Carolina Panthers linebacker) Luke Kuechly, a natural, instinctive player with a knack for making spectacular plays."

Nolan Nawrocki is director of the 51-man Butkus Award selection committee and a draft analyst for NFL.com. "There was one play against Virginia Tech, C.J. comes up and delivers a big forearm shiver to the right guard," he says. "He grades off the charts in the football character department."

Mosley's off-field character also ranks high, says Smart.

"Fuller Goldsmith was 6, had leukemia and his dad wanted a role model for his son," Smart says. "He didn't want Mark Ingram, Dont'a Hightower or Julio Jones. He wanted someone who was quiet like his son. C.J. was a freshman who didn't talk much. Well, C.J. and Fuller formed a lasting bond.

"Fuller is still battling. C.J. visited him in the hospital, goes to his house, plays video games and goes to his flag football games."

Mosley could have been a first-round selection a year ago but returned to Alabama to further develop his game

"I came back for my senior year because I wanted to prove people wrong," says Mosley, who earned a degree in human health science. "I had a lot more to prove as an every-down linebacker who some said wasn't big enough to stop the run."

It says everything that a four-time national championship coach considers Mosley special.

"He did things the right way," Saban says. "C.J. is just a great person."

Follow Jim Corbett on Twitter @ByJimCorbett.

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