Razorback Q&A: Richie Butler
By Nathan Striegler
Richie Butler knows that his job is not a glamorous one. He doesn't see hoards of young Razorback fans sporting his No. 35 jersey on gamedays. He knows that his football card will probably never be a collector's item. He doesn't expect to sign a big contract to endorse the new AIR BUTLER'S.
If Richie wanted to grab headlines, he'd be playing another, more glamorous position. But Richie isn't concerned with popularity, except for the respect of his teammates and coaches. Butler, a senior from Harrison, Arkansas, just wants to help his team win. So far, he's done everything in his power.
Three games into this young season, the preseason 2nd team All-SEC pick is averaging an eye-popping 44.9 yards per punt and has already pinned six of them inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He even booted an amazing 79-yard rocket against Alabama.
Though his job may not be glitzy, Richie knows that he's an integral part of the team. His ability to turn the football field around or pin a foe deep can give the Hogs a decisive edge in close games. He may not be after headlines, but that's what he's getting in this week's Q & A.
Nathan Striegler: Arkansas' special teams annihilated Alabama punter Lane Bearden on a blocked punt and then on a fake punt. How sorry did you feel for the guy when he limped off of the field?
Richie Butler: I felt awful. I think he's been starting for three years and I don't even know if he can get a medical hardship or whatever. To do something like that is just awful, especially on a play that probably shouldn't happen. If I was in and we had run that, I don't know what I would have done either.
NS: So should we anticipate you sliding if a hit is coming on a fake punt?
RB: No. You won't see me diving though. You won't see me trying to go head up with somebody like (Tony) Bua and Jimmy (Beasley). I don't think so, but you'll see me doing something.
NS: A lot of special teams guys have dreams about getting their chance to make a big play. Are you ever over there trying to convince Coach Shibest to let you run a fake?
RB: Sometimes. He gave me my chance at Auburn a few years ago and I threw an interception so he kind of got off of it from there. That's probably one of my best moments because I have a picture of me throwing the ball.
NS: You don't have a picture of them catching it?
NS: Last year you were nominated for the Ray Guy award, given to the nation's top punter. How much does it mean to you to have a chance at competing for such an honor?
RB: Just to be associated with the name Ray Guy is an honor as it is. I don't know how many people make the first cut for the award but being nominated for anything at your position, singling you out, is just an honor.
NS: You really got thrown to the wars pretty early. What has been the toughest moment of your career?
RB: That was probably my freshman season after I got hurt. I had to just sit out the rest of the season, knowing they weren't going to let me punt. I was hurt and I couldn't have done what they needed me to do. That was probably the hardest part. I started like eight games and then got hurt so I couldn't get that year over again.
NS: Punter is really an underappreciated position. Do you feel like your teammates recognize how much you mean to this team?
RB: I think they do to a point. It's just as important as everything. It's not just me punting. Half the guys on the defense are on the punt team so they realize it in they aspect. They don't owe me anything. I just don't want to mess up their chances. I want to give them the best field position they could possibly have.
NS: Here's a scenario. You guys are down with a few minutes left in the game. You're punting from deep in your territory and the snap goes over your head into the endzone. What do you do hotshot? What do you do?
RB: If we're down I don't know what good giving two points is going to do. I'll pick it up and either soccer-style kick it or try to see if somebody is open.
NS: You nailed a 79-yarder against ‘Bama. How much did that help the team as well as yourself?
RB: After it all happened I went to the sideline and I felt more a part of the team than at any other time. I felt like they were depending on me to get them out and I did it. I've probably been congratulated more on that punt than any other.
NS: Since you do practice separate from the rest of the squad so much, is it a challenge for you to feel like part of the team?
RB: To a point. You're just not out there. Sometimes I don't feel like I'm contributing. I do my part and I try to do what they ask me to do. I just don't want to mess up for the other guys because they work so hard.
NS: What's the worst thing that has happened to you on a punt?
RB: My freshman year I hit a 9-yarder. I don't even remember who we were playing. I guess I must have put it out of my memory. We were up seven points and when I hit it everybody kinda just went "oooh." It wasn't really a boo. When I punted it, I though I was going to have to catch it because it would bounce back towards me.
NS: How difficult is a pooch punt?
RB: It's pretty tough. Anybody who says they can control the bounce is lying. Part of a pooch punt is luck. Thank goodness that sometimes the field is soft and it kind of absorbs some of the bounce and dies. Pooch punting with Tom (Crowder) and Batman is pretty easy because those are about the two fastest guys I've seen on a football field.
NS: Have you ever though about going out before the game and tearing up and softening the field right around then ten- or fifteen-yard line?
RB: No, no. I never thought of that.
NS: Well if you decide to, I promise I won't tell anyone. Do you ever drift away at practice and start looking at the clouds or daydreaming?
RB: I do that in the games when I'm back there. I've got to take all of it in. I don't get nervous from seeing all of the people. I like it. I like seeing what they're doing. It seemed like last game was the longest I've ever stood back there waiting. The TV timeout just took forever and then we got that five-yard penalty and I had to step back again. Then I looked up and the fans were playing with a beach ball. It's just fun to watch. I have to take my mind off of it.
NS: What's the one thing that you would want the people out there to know about punting?
RB: When a quarterback is in the shotgun, a lot of people are looking at him. When I'm punting, I'm fourteen yards away from everybody on the field. At that moment there are so many people watching me so that if I mess up then it's known. There's a lot more pressure than people think.
NS: Since you technically take snaps, just like the quarterback does, do you think you should get as many girls as the quarterback?
RB: I think Matt Jones has that one taken care of for the next couple years. No I've got my girl so I don't need one.