But Thursday in Miami, Butler went deep in another way, and for a while there the 5-foot-10, 167-pounder wondered if he'd be around for the Nittany Lions' Jan. 3 Orange Bowl date with Florida State.
As part of a team beach party Thursday, the PSU athletes took turns riding Yamaha Waverunners in the ocean. They went out in groups of three, and a guide from the tour company who owned the machines accompanied each set.
Butler was grouped with backup receiver Lydell Sargeant and reserve linebacker Tyrell Sales, and as they headed out toward the horizon from the beach everything was fine. When they got far enough out that they could no longer see the beach — "very deep," Butler said — they spun and headed back in.
When we turned around to go back, they started racing, Butler said, adding that at that moment, while he was at the back of the pack, he ran out of gas. I guess they never looked back once they started racing.
The others made it all the way to shore before anyone realized something was amiss.
They were joking, saying Lydell wanted to play more, so they left me out there, Butler said.
Earlier in the day, folks from the tour company said there would be no threat of shark attacks so long as everyone remained close to shore. But when Butler looked up and saw a massive oil tanker a few hundred yards away, he figured he was closer to the high seas than the beach.
He stopped trying to fire the thirsty motor because I didn't want to sound like a fish on top of the water for any predators. Everything terrible was running through my head. I'm out floating and floating, with no boats. It's just a lonely feeling.
Later he added, That was the longest 20 minutes of my life.
Help arrived in the form of the next group, and Butler hopped on the back of the guide's Waverunner and they headed to shore. He arrived back at the beach amid laughter and applause.
And with a new view on going deep.
I think that's the last time I go out that far, he said.