The biggest question on the minds of some Penn State fans with regard to Deon Butler has been, "How did this kid not get more offers?" Coach Sorrentino explained, "You have to go back to 2002, Deon's junior year. 2002 was my first year at Hylton and we had a team with a great defense that year. We had 9 shutouts that year, including winning the state championship game 6-0. I had a kid who was really a halfback playing QB for us because I didn't really have anyone else. We won that state championship game throwing only one pass the entire game. I knew if we scored we'd probably win the game, so I coached them to not make mistakes. Don't take any chances. That's how we played that year".
Coach Sorrentino said that Deon Butler played CB his junior year and came up with 5 interceptions on the season. To emphasize how good the Hylton defense was that year, Coach Sorrentino elaborated, "we went 13-1 last year and had all those shutouts, and even the one game we lost was 0-0 into the second overtime period before we finally lost that game".
When 2003 rolled around, Coach Sorrentino knew he had something that he did not have the prior year - a QB who could throw the ball. Junior QB Tristen Simmons isn't a big kid, but he has a strong arm and when Coach Sorrentino decided to open it up this year he knew that Deon Butler was going to have a good season.
Coach Sorrentino hasn't always been at C.D. Hylton HS. He has been in coaching for 22 years, the last 14 as a head coach. Prior to becoming the head man at Hylton before the 2002 season, Sorrentino was the head coach at Culpeper HS, also in Northern Virginia.
Sorrentino had no idea how good it would get in 2003. Hylton threw the ball for 154 yards per game in 2003 while rushing for 155 yards per game. They scored 23 TD's running the ball and 23 more passing the ball. Butler was obviously a big part of that, getting 42 receptions for 1,001 yards and 14 TD's receiving.
Deon was switched from corner to free safety this year to take advantage of what Coach Sorrentino calls his "ball skills". That move paid off handsomely for Hylton HS as Butler picked off another 8 passes, returning three of them for scores.
"Deon never came off the field last year. He played WR on offense, he was our team captain and leader on defense, and he played special teams. He literally never came off the field".
Perhaps Deon's greatest effort came in a state semifinal loss to Westfield. Entering that game, Hylton was undefeated at 12-0 on the year. Westfield had Sean Glennon at QB, a Virginia Tech commitment and Eddie Royal at WR, a kid with 30 major college offers.
Sorrentino asked Butler to shadow Royal that night. Sorrentino described what happened, "Deon did an unbelievable job on Royal that night. Eddie is an incredible player and we had Deon back there in the middle to try and stop Royal. Eddie got two receptions on Butler that night.
Coach Sorrentino paused, then chuckled a bit recalling those two catches, "those were highlight reel catches. Deon was draped all over him and he had to make spectacular plays to get those two balls. What can I say, Deon was on him all night long. You have to give him credit if he can make those two plays".
Butler didn't do too badly that night either. Deon had 8 catches for 156 yards and 2 TD's that night. And when Sorrentino was asked for a comparison of Butler to Royal, "I have to tell you there isn't much difference between these two players. Royal is physically stronger right now, but that's it".
And what about potential?
"The sky is the limit, really. Deon is 5-11 and 165lbs. I've been coaching 22 years and I've had a lot of D1 kids. Deon Butler had the best single season this past fall of any kid I have ever coached. I coached Stefan Orange at Culpeper a few years ago. Deon is as fast as Stefan was, but he has better hips, better feet, and better ball skills. As far as hips, feet and ball skills, Deon is right there with Eddie Royal. After two years in the weight room he‘ll be up to 180lbs and he‘ll be right there with him as far as strength goes".
Coach Sorrentino went on to explain that Deon Butler has always played basketball. Not only all winter, but on the AAU circuit as well. "Deon plays point guard for Hylton, then he plays point guard for an AAU team all spring and summer. Then it's back to football".
Butler's exploits gained him an impressive array of post season awards. He was named a Class AAA first team all state defensive back, a second team all state selection at WR, and a Washington Post first team All Metro pick as a return specialist.
Deon Butler is fully qualified with a 1070 SAT score. He had offers from several 1-AA schools, but his heart was set on playing D1 football.
When asked what advice he gave to Deon during the recruiting process, "I told him to take one of the offers from James Madison or William and Mary. I know how expensive college can be. They were willing to give him a free ride all four years".
Sorrentino told us that Maryland and Virginia were two other schools that stayed in contact with Butler right up thru the end of January when both informed him they have filled all their scholarship slots for defensive backs.
Coach Sorrentino mentioned that Deon really wanted to know where he stood against D1 players, "He didn't want to look back at this later in life and wonder how good he could have been. When he asked me for my honest opinion if he could play at a place like Penn State I couldn't lie to him when I knew he could play at a place like that".
Coach Sorrentino had one other thing to say about Deon Butler, "his best days are ahead of him".