2004 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Kelly Butler

Purdue right tackle Kelly Butler decided after hearing he would go in the fourth round by the draft review board that he would leave school after his junior season. Since the initial rankings, Butler has skyrocketed up the draft boards and is now easily a first day draft selection and has a bright future heading into the 2004 NFL Draft.

"It was a difficult decision," Butler confided on leaving school early. "The draft inquiry said I was going to be a fourth round draft pick but I felt comfortable in my athleticism in a slow year for offensive linemen, besides Gallery and Andrews, it was wide open. Nothing guaranteed me by staying my senior year it would increase (my draft status). It was an opportunity that I wanted to take right now and I felt comfortable with the way I played this season."

Scouts and coaches have been talking about Kelly Butler and his name has become a hot topic on the eve of the 2004 Draft. Butler has heard the talk, but takes nothing for granted.

"My stock is rising," Butler says with a hint of a smile. "That is what I hear that my stock is rising from the combines and my personal workouts. You never know in this process. I just want to go and try and make a ball club and try and get an opportunity. I am looking forward to it."

Kelly Butler started all 38 games at right tackle over the last three seasons. But teams are also talking about moving the athletic lineman to the left side, in a draft devoid of quality left tackles.

Butler worked out in Arizona under the tutelage of Coach Bugel and Coach Bresnahan at left tackle this offseason. Butler believes he will start out at right tackle but could see a move to left tackle in the future and is more than happy to go "wherever they put me."

At 6-7, 320 pounds, Butler fashions himself as a leader. It wasn't always so easy. Butler was amid controversy for an incident in 2002 at a Sigma Nu fraternity.

He was accused of hitting a pledge at a fraternity house where quarterback Brandon Kirsch had earlier broken his hand in a fight. Butler, 20, was released on $500 bond on a misdemeanor battery charge, and is scheduled for a court appearance Dec. 16. According to a court document filed in support of the charge, Butler and safety Stuart Schweigert told police they were at a West Lafayette bar Oct. 27 when they received a phone call that Kirsch had been in a fight at the Sigma Nu fraternity.

They said they and teammate Niko Koutouvides went to the fraternity and confronted four pledges. The court documents say the pledges told police that Butler approached one of them and struck him on the left cheek, then kicked him several times and hit him again in the mouth. Schweigert and Koutouvides were not charged. Kirsch cracked a bone in his right hand when he accidentally struck a wall. He played but did not start Nov. 9 against Ohio State and started last week at Michigan State.

Butler has been answering the questions regarding the incident all offseason. But he does not shy away from it.

"I am still answering questions about it and it is not a problem," Butler said. "The situation was our quarterback was (in a fight). We got the call and went there with a couple of my teammates. It was a case of mistaken identity and the charges were dropped. The guy responsible in court said I didn't do anything and the charges were dropped. It was just a headache."

Now Butler is working on his game and gaining the respect of his future teammates. He still believes he can lead the team and wants to be the guy that will step up and say something if someone on the line is out of position.

He also is more than willing to take the constructive criticism.

"That is just respect," Butler says. "I would want someone to do that with me. If I am not doing my job I want them to do the same thing. When you play on the line it is like a family because you have to protect each other. There are five of us and we always stick up for each other. If I am not getting the job done, call me out and if they are not getting the job done it is just constructive criticism. It helps the line get better and helps you as a player get better."

Butler has come a long way since the 2002 incident that wasn't an incident. On Saturday, Butler will prove his worth by being selected in the NFL Draft.

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