Thanks for agreeing to speak with us, can you give us a general bio of Matthew Butler?
Well, I live with both of my parents and I have a brother and a sister. Pretty much for my whole life sports has been a pretty big thing. I didn’t really hone in on one particular sport or even a set of skills on the football field until I got into high school, I just played all over the field. Even when I started high school I had a lot of different skills, but that’s when I decided to really hone in on the defensive line. The school I was at had two seniors on the line and I was a freshman, so I basically just modeled my game off of theirs. Really when I think about it, my game is modeled off of theirs and I play inside like Lamont did and I also play like Harold too, that’s what made me into the player I am. Then I moved to Garner and they helped me even more, it just kinda happened, it’s a really good school and a real great community here. Like we’d be in a restaurant with my brother and people would just walk up to me and tell me I support you and ask me what college I’m going to, it’s real cool.
How have you handled being ranked as one of the top players in the state?
You know I appreciate it and everything, but I’m still going for more always. I know a lot of the guys in this state and being recruited by the top schools like them and going to various camps as a freshman before we even kinda knew who each other really was, so just seeing their game develop and my game develop, I’m just trying to continue to get better.
Speaking of your development as a player, what do you consider to be your major strengths on the field?
I feel like I’m actually a better pass rusher from the outside and I don’t get to really showcase that a lot with me being so big, 6’4, 260 plus, I’m not just going to be on the end all the time while someone smaller than me is on the inside. I can rush from the inside of course, but I just feel like I’m good at rushing the passer from the outside and then I can run stop from anywhere because run stopping as a defensive end is really about play recognition and run stopping from the inside is more about pushing the guy in front of you back as far as you can. So I feel like those, I don’t feel like I have an advantage between how I rush the passer versus stopping the run, I just feel like I can make plays anywhere and I have some good moves on the outside and I’m pretty good at both, I just have to keep getting better.
I think my wingspan helps me also, I’ve got a 6’11 wingspan and I have like a 36 inch arm length or something like that, so if I can have an offensive lineman to my advantage just by extending my arm and using natural leverage of my body, so really if I’m not having any success against somebody which is rare, my size can help.
With you having that flexibility in your game—are a lot of schools recruiting you to play all over the defensive line?
I feel like really all the schools recruiting me that I’m looking into very closely, they are really recruiting me to be versatile just because you will see me in a camp setting playing against pretty good tackles and then you will see me in a game setting playing tackle against sizeable guards, so I feel like I can really do both and play against the pass and the run. If I can make it to the NFL playing defensive end, then I’m playing defensive end, but if I can make it to the NFL playing against a guard or a tackle, then that’s what I’m going to do. It’s really just up to my development and also putting the weight on. I feel like I can put on weight but to be honest with you, I don’t necessarily want to put on a lot. Like I don’t know if I want to weigh much past 280 as I’m around 260, 264 right now.
What is your thought process on that goal?
I feel like 280 and with me being 6’3 and not done growing, 6’4 and 280 would let me play both areas on both the outside and inside on any level. That’s just kinda my dream body size, but whatever God decides He wants to have on my body, that’s what’s going to happen.
Since you are paying attention to your weight and athletic ability, can you describe what you are doing from a body-development perspective in your workouts?
I just recently tore my meniscus in my left knee, so I’m recovering from that, it was crazy for me because my quad kinda went numb too, but I was talking to my school trainer about it and he said that kind of stuff is going to happen. At school we do a lot of uphill resistance type stuff, we work on our hips and quads a lot, so it’s not going to be a big deal for me recovering because I’ll be good by the end of the month with the coaching I have. With my mind being able to wrap around what my trainer and coach are telling me, I can see that I can do those things that he’s doing. I talk to the strength and conditioning coaches every time I go visit a university because honestly the off-season time period is longer than the in-season, so I’m going to be with the strength and conditioning coaches more than I’ll be with my other coaches, so it’s important I talk with them too.
Have you heard anything really innovative or interesting to you in those conversations with the strength and conditioning coaches you’ve been able to talk to so far?
Nothing like out of this world, it’s really about flexibility and strength with me because the majority of injuries that happen come from natural movements like the bending of the knee has to do with your meniscus, so that’s why I tore my meniscus because my knee bended a type of way that was a hinderance. Also I was supposed to be out for like 6 weeks with that injury and I’m back in 2, so I’m thankful for my coaches and what they have already been doing. I’ve just been learning a lot more beyond what I already know and I know the basics of flexibility and strength and speed, but there’s more to learn and combination of things to do on certain days that would be beneficial.
With your knowledge of training and similar, is that a potential major and/or career path for you?
I’m actually looking into training and things like that, but I really want to go into the law because that’s been a dream of mine since I was really young. Also I’m looking into broadcasting and things like that. I don’t necessarily want to take the easy road out with my professional career being that I plan on having one.
Which programs have you had the opportunity to visit so far that you have really liked what you have seen in terms of their academic programs?
Really all the programs that I’m looking into have a program in Political Science which is good for getting you into a law program. So whether I’m ready after 3 years for the NFL or after 4, then I can have a whole year to not only take a master’s class like one or two a week and focus on football, just depends on how it goes.
It sounds like you are hoping to play right away when you get to college, is that a good read?
I am but at the same time I’m trying to be the best football player that I can be. So if I’m just playing my role freshman year that’s fine or if I redshirt and then go in and become a better football player, that’s what I want to do, just become a better football player.
Are the majority of the programs recruiting you indicating that you have a real shot at earning minutes your freshman year?
I’ve had the conversation, the schools that I haven’t really narrowed it down to publicly yet, but that I have narrowed it down to in my head, I have a real opportunity to come in and compete for a spot at those schools. Nothing is going to be given to you and I don’t want to be given anything, but I have a good opportunity I would say at some schools with guys who are going to be graduating or going to the Draft and some coaches see a real opportunity for me with the potential that I have. I also have a real opportunity at some of these schools with the versatility I have, even with some of them saying that my freshman year, we have a need in that spot for D Tackle. I’ve talked to probably under 10 schools who have told me that on a first down situation I might be on the end, second down I’m inside and third down I’m at nose guard, so that’s just really the versatility aspect of my game. That’s been instilled in me since I was young is just showing that I really have versatility to my game when talking with these college coaches.
Can you give me a rundown of what you can remember of which programs have extended to you a firm, committable scholarship offer at this point?
NC State, Virginia Tech, Duke, UNC, Wake Forest, UNC Charlotte, Penn State, Pitt, Purdue, Georgia Tech, UVA, Maryland, Arkansas, Yale, Columbia, Navy, Miami, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Rutgers, West Virginia, Cal, South Carolina and ECU. I have visited a lot of them but some of them I’ve visited and I don’t hear from them too much, they are just kinda doing check in type of conversations, friendly type stuff, so that’s not the type of recruitment that I’m looking for, so that happens.
Which ones from that list would you say are making a committed effort to stay in regular communication with you?
NC State, Duke, UNC, Virginia, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Penn State, Vanderbilt. Wake Forest kinda did for awhile, really most of those schools are recruiting me pretty hard except for a few of them.
What are your thoughts on the dynamics of having all the top North Carolina schools for football seriously involved in your recruitment?
That’s pretty cool, also I don’t want to sound a certain way, but I had been in contact with all those schools for awhile even before they offered me, but then I was kinda informed by my dad the other day that I have an offer from at least one Power 5 school in every league including the Ivy League, which I thought was kinda cool, grateful for that.
Since you’ve mentioned Duke, can you shed some light on where the process is with them and you?
Well, I’ve built a really good relationship with Coach Guerreri, Coach Cut and Coach Albert. Coach Albert came from Boston College and so I had known of him before he got to Duke. They are all really cool and down to earth and keep it real. We have a lot of similarities as to who we are with Coach Albert and myself.
How did Coach Albert coming onto the Duke coaching staff affect your recruiting process with Duke?
That’s what kinda re-opened my eyes with Duke. I had visited before and we had a good visit and a really good conversation and I could see how good of a coach he was even before he had really told me a whole lot. He just talked about how he coaches and stuff like that, it was good. They are near the top of my list, and I’m towards the top of theirs. I’m a priority guy for them and I’m looking at Duke really hard because it’s a really good situation there and I feel like they are a good up and coming program.
Which other programs are you treating with a similar viewpoint?
NC State, that’s close to home, UNC, South Carolina, Tennessee. I have a connection with all of those schools, I know guys who have gone there for either basketball or football, so I have a connection with all of those other schools and Duke.
What is your thought process when comparing Duke, UNC and NC State as programs and schools?
They are really close to me, so I have a pretty good relationship with guys there.
Where’s the process headed next for you?
Probably going to do a few more visits, the latest I will make a decision is probably December, but it could really come at any time depending on the school, there’s different situations at each school being that recruiting is kinda like a numbers game and being that I’m a #1 priority for a lot of schools, so if it’s a situation that I’m in where there’s no reason to wait, then I’ll do it.
Any programs putting pressure on you to commit?
No it’s not so much that as its more with people close to me that I’m being advised not to wait it out too long if you don’t have to. I’m pretty much aware of all the recruiting commits on the defensive side of the ball with different schools because that’s who I’ll be playing with.
What are your thoughts towards the defensive line depth charts at Duke, NC State and UNC at this point since you are tracking that kind of info?
Duke they actually have a lot of commits but they play a lot of guys, NC State has some commits and I feel like they have a really good coaching staff and I feel the same way about Duke, if the decision came in December which is possible, I would be able to see how some guys developed which is pretty important to me too