If Carson Butler was asked to describe the last few years of his football career in one word, that word would likely be change. Halfway through his high school career as an imposing fullback at Lansing (MI) Waverly, Butler transferred to Detroit Renaissance. The decision had as much to do with family as it did with sports.
“Detroit is home to me” stated Butler. “All my family is from Detroit; my father, my mother, my aunts…everyone in my family. I spent summers there. Detroit is home. I just wanted to go back home and I told my mom I wanted to be with my family. Renaissance was a good opportunity. School, the basketball team…everything just seemed like it would work out if I went back home.”
While most prep football prospects are on the recruiting map as juniors, Butler wasn’t even on the football field for Renaissance. “I just decided not to play football,” he said. “I’m really into basketball. That was really my main reason for going to Renaissance besides academics. It’s a good school. “
Butler had good reason to be interested in Renaissance basketball. The Phoenix
already had two of the top prospects in the country in wing players Joe Crawford
and Malik Hairston. Butler’s physical presence helped propel Renaissance
to the state championship. Despite the great distance that now exists between
the former teammates, (Crawford chose Kentucky and Hairston chose Oregon), Butler
says that they still keep in touch. “Whenever we are all at home, we all
go out and play basketball," he said. "It’s fun. We keep in
contact. We are all good friends. It’s a good thing because we all went
off to college and it seems like a lot of things are working out for each of
us. We just stay in contact and keep each others heads up.”
Though Butler enjoyed all of the great success on the hardwood, he still felt that a little something was missing. He wanted to rejuvenate his football career.
“Football… I missed it,” he said. “I went back to
it my senior year and ended up having fun with it”.
Part of why Butler enjoyed his return to the gridiron was because Renaissance coach William Hill moved him to a position that would take better advantage of his athletic talents. Instead of starting at fullback, Butler found a new home out on the flanks.
“When I came back to football for my senior year, I just tried out the receiving position. I was 6’4 so I really wasn’t going to ask coach to play running back.”
Though the transition back to football was tough at first, Butler ultimately succeeded due to the guidance of Hill. As one of the most liked and respected coaches in the state, Hill touched the lives of a lot of youngsters. Unfortunately, his work with the youth in the city he loved came to an end on December 6th of 2004. The adored coach passed away after suffering a heart attack. Butler took time to reflect on his old mentor.
“I knew him for a few years," recalled Butler. "He asked me to play football actually when I was a sophomore. I didn’t really play for him until my senior year, but I knew him. When I actually got on the team, he treated me as though I was on the team just like the other guys for four years. One thing I can say about Coach Hill is he was a great man and we miss him a lot. A lot of this I do for him. I know he really wanted me to go to the University of Michigan. He was very proud that I went to Michigan, I know he would be happy right now.”
Butler carried many of the lessons he learned from Hill with him to Ann Arbor. The experience he had adjusting to a new environment came in handy early in his Michigan career. After spending his last year in high school as a wide receiver, where only had to sparingly block, Butler had to make the transition to life on the line as a college tight end.
“For me, (the toughest thing to adapt to) was blocking at first,”
said Butler. “I had to get better at blocking, reading coverages and defenses.
It was all a big change from high school to college. It was just like starting
all over again. In high school, of course, you're not blocking guys like Lamarr Woodley and guys that are 280 pounds, so it was definitely a big transition.”
Fortunately for Butler, he was again able to rely on the guidance of his coaches to help him to improve his ability to block on the edge. “Coach (Mike) DeBord really helped me a lot with that as far as technique," said Butler. "And lifting with Mike Gittleson got me stronger. Blocking is coming along. I'm just trying to get better every week."
Butler was also able to pick the brains of some of the upperclassmen at his position. "Tyler (Ecker) has taught me a lot since I've been here” he said. “Going through the camps and practices that we've been through, I just watched him a lot… watched his technique. He helps me with coverages and all that type of stuff. Brian (Thompson) is a hard worker -- he also helps me. He knows the offense a little bit better than I do. He's been here longer than me. They both definitely help me out."
All of Butler's hard work came in handy this season. Injuries at the position
and the young man’s improvement have led to him seeing more frequently
than many anticipated. Butler leads the group in receiving with nine receptions
for 84 yards and made his first start last week against Iowa in which. He caught
three passes for 42 yards in the 20-6 victory over the Hawkeyes.
"I've been prepared ever since camp” stated Butler. “I've been ready to play for every game whether I got three snaps or 50. Just be ready. I didn't really think about it. Coach Carr never said anything about me playing most of the game. He just said be ready when your time comes and I just tried to be ready.”
After the game was over and Butler was walking up the tunnel, Coach Carr put his arm around Butler and had some words of wisdom for the youngster. “He said, 'first you weren’t playing that much, now you’re playing a lot and you can’t take it,' " Butler recalled. "He started laughing because I came out of the game a couple of times.”
On playing basketball at Michigan in the future:
“I love basketball, I’d love to play basketball here. That’s just up to what my future is as far as football and what Lloyd (Carr) needs me to do. How everything is going to tie in as far as football and academics. It is hard enough, then just to hop into another season, it is very tiring. To be honest, I’d love to play basketball so hopefully, maybe one day.
On athletes in his family:
“(My) uncles, father, played basketball and my mothers first cousin is (current Baltimore Ravens wide receiver) Derrick Mason, he played football too.”
On his decision to come to Michigan:
“Honestly, after my senior year of football when I was offered a scholarship to play here, I knew Michigan was a great program, a championship program. I knew Coach Carr was a good coach. I just felt like it was a good opportunity to come to Michigan.”
On tight end injuries:
"We had some bad luck with that. Tyler (Ecker) got hurt, Mike (Massey)
got hurt so it has been hard for us to stay healthy. They'll be back soon enough
and everything will be alright."