“It’s great to be a Phoenix today!” Those were the words often uttered by the late Coach William Douglas Hill of Detroit Renaissance. They certainly rang true yesterday as Phoenix football players Carson Butler and Andre Criswell signed their letters of intent to attend the University of Michigan next fall. Coach Hill, who passed away just after football season last year, would have been very proud to see how these two young men have turned out.
To everyone’s surprise, Coach Hill’s wife was in attendance to wish the young men well and she received a standing ovation from the entire Renaissance family. She was one of many in the community there to show their support for the two future Wolverines. Coach Antonio Watts and Principal Deborah Harley used words and phrases like character, ability, hard workers, and tremendous to describe these two young gentlemen. It was obvious that both Carson and Andre were appreciative that so many well-wishers were in their corners. They thanked a packed conference room of parents, relatives, teachers, staff members and friends. Each young man was very happy about his decision and can’t wait to room with one another in Ann Arbor.
I had a chance to sit down and speak with each of them, their parents, and their teachers about what the future holds. Much of what they all had to say will appear in the Signing Day Issue of GoBlueWolverine, which is set to mail in early March. In the meantime, below are a few comments from some of the individuals there, including the men of the hour…Carson Butler and Andre Criswell.
*Be on the lookout for photos from the presser tomorrow.
How does it feel?
"Today is a great day. I am happy to be a part of the Michigan program. I am really excited to graduate soon and go up to Ann Arbor."
Can you tell me a little bit about your teammate Andre Criswell?
"Andre Criswell is a great football player. He is a big fella that really works hard and can shut down one side of the field… and he is a good person too. I am excited that he is going to attend school with me. I have somebody there that I can relate to who is like a brother to me."
What is your G.P.A and have you received your test scores back yet?
"Actually, this year I had some of my best report cards. I got a 3.3 on my first report card and a 3.5 on the second report card. My test score was a 21. I think I could have done better. I just needed to focus more, but everything is going pretty well grade wise in the classroom."
Can you tell me what you might want to major in when you get to Michigan?
"At first my choice was psychology. My twin sister Brandy is going to Michigan too and she wanted to get into psychology too. I can change my mind, so I really don’t know yet. I will take regular classes and talk to my teammates and advisors when I get up there so I can figure out what I want to do."
Can you talk about your receiving a scholarship to Michigan?
"Man it means so much to me because a lot of kids can’t go to college because of money or their grades are not good enough. I know I am going to get a great education there or maybe I might make it to the next level for football. I have two different options there, so I have a great opportunity. I talked to Coach Malone and he said, 'we are not giving you a scholarship…you earned it.' I know it doesn’t end there, so I am going to go to Michigan and work hard for what I want."
Can you give us some comments about Coach Hill and what he meant to you as a coach and a person?
"Coach Hill, honestly, was a great person. I really miss him. He treated me like I was there all four years. I only played for him one year, and he gave me the best football year I could have had here at Renaissance. He was a great coach. When he got on me, I knew it was time to work hard. He always pushed you to work hard and I never had a problem doing anything he ever asked me to do. I respected him a lot. Whatever he needed me to do, I tried to do because I knew he would be there for me. He was a father figure to a lot of us. He was a great man. "
How do you feel about today this is a pretty big day for you?
Yeah it is an exciting day today with me Carson signing with Michigan.
What position do you see yourself playing when you get up to Michigan?
"As of right now they want me to play fullback, but they may change me to somewhere on the defensive side. I will play anywhere on the field."
Yeah but where do you want to play?
"(Laughing) Well, my love is on the defensive line, so that’s where I would like to play."
Can you give me some comments on Carson Butler?
"He is a terrific athlete and is a nice person. He is a real good competitor, has skills, and is blessed with talent and he uses all of those things."
Will you talk about Coach Hill and your feelings about him?
"Coach is somebody you can look up to… a great mentor. He meant the world to me and if it were not for him, I would not be playing football. I owe a lot to him. I thank God for blessing me with Coach Hill for the time I had him. As a person, he is great father figure and someone you would like to know."
Mr. Butler (Carson Sr.)
Your son has just signed to attend the University of Michigan. How do you feel about this day?
"Very proud! It is the proudest moment since he was born for him and his twin sister (Brandy) I never thought I would see the day he would sign with a program like Michigan, but I have always dreamed of it."
Can you tell me the type of son that you have to have this type of situation happen for him?
"Carson is a really hard worker and a good natured kid. He is a humble kid who speaks and presents himself very well. He knows what he wants out of life."
What position do you see him playing at U of M?
"Carson is one of those freakish types of athlete in that he is one of the rare athlete’s in the country that can go from wide receiver to defensive end and he can play linebacker, tight end or defensive end. Hopefully he can play the wide receiver or tight end position. More than likely he will play the tight end position when he gets up there."
Carrie Mason (Carson Butler’s mom)
How is this day going for you and the family so far?
"It is a very exciting day and it was a day I knew we would eventually get to. We are happy it is here."
When Michigan came calling were you surprised that they interested in your son?
"We had attended our second game (the Minnesota game) and we sort of sat and waited for Coach Carr for a while. Then he came out he offered and we were kind of surprised. We didn’t know if he was offering or just telling us he might be offering. Then we realized that he was offering Carson a scholarship and we were excited."
What are your thoughts on Coach Carr?
"I don’t really know a lot about Michigan football because before Carson had committed to them or decided that was something he wanted to do, I really did not know a lot about him. But from meeting him, he seems like a genuine man. We appreciate him most definitely."
Can you tell me about your son, what you think about him and this day?
"I think it is a major accomplishment for him. Carson has worked hard all of his life. He always told me 'Mom I am going to get a scholarship so you don’t have to pay for me to go to college.' It is great to see that it happened."