Joe Walton on Chargers safety Robb Butler

Since San Diego Chargers safety Robb Butler has been kind enough to supply us with a training camp diary, it was only fitting that we in turn bring in his former general, Joe Walton, Head Coach of Robert Morris and former coach of the New York Jets, to discuss the future of the undrafted safety.

Robb Butler was a two-year letter winner for the Colonials, playing both the wide receiver and strong safety positions after transferring from the University of Pittsburgh in the fall of 2001.

As a wide receiver in 2002, Butler led Robert Morris with 459 receiving yards while finishing second on the club in receptions (29), an average of 15.8 yards per catch.

It's been said that when one door closes, another door opens. Joe Walton saw something in Robb Butler and turned him into a safety as a senior. For a player hoping to make it in the NFL, it was a strange decision, but one that Coach Walton still sees as a positive today.

"He had played both ways in high school and was a darn good defensive player in high school," Walton said. "He went to Pitt on scholarship and was playing wide receiver. When he transferred to us, I kept him as a wide receiver. He played very well, both my defensive coordinator, Dan Radakovich and I, felt that if he was going to have a chance to go to the next level at all, he might have a better chance on defense."

And so he made the change.

In 2003, Butler, now manning the strong safety position, finished second on the squad in tackles (84), including a team-high 45 solo tackles. He also finished with nine passes defended and a pair of interceptions. For those efforts Butler was named a First Team I-AA Mid-Major All-American according to Don Hansen's National Weekly Football Gazette. On his two-year career with the Colonials, Butler appeared in all 20 games, never missing a start.

But with one year of experience as a defender, is Butler destined for the practice squad? He has to be a bit on the raw side, no?

"I really don't think so," Walton said. "We use a pro style defense. He is going to be very familiar with all the coverages. Coach Radakovich has coached in the Pros and was a defensive coordinator in San Francisco and a couple of other places. He has experience and we try and teach the kids, almost like we do in pro ball. Maybe not give them as much, but we do all the same things."

If anyone knows a thing or two about the pros, it is Coach Walton. With 35 years of National Football League experience as a player, scout, and coach, Joe Walton has seen it all. He has been the coach at Robert Morris since the football program was first introduced in 1993 and the new stadium that opens in 2005 is named after the coach.

What are the attributes that made the coaching staff so certain of this change?

"He is a very physical kid, has good quickness, gets to the ball well and has good enough hands to intercept," Walton said. "He also is a very good special teams player. Healthy never missed a start."

By this time we all know about Robb Butler the man. He oozes with sincerity and you can't help to pull for the underdog.

Coach Walton echoed those sentiments:

"He is a real good young man. He became a leader on our team, did well in school and he played some great football for us."

Having been a talent evaluator in the NFL and making those tough cuts as the roster gets whittled down, what are the chances of Robb Butler making a roster?

"I think he has a darn good chance, if they give him an opportunity," Walton said. "We have had two defensive backs two years in a row getting an opportunity. That is all you can ask for."

Robb Butler Camp Diary III
Robb Butler Camp Diary II
Robb Butler Camp Diary I

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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