Teacher's Pet?

CARROLLTON, Tex. - In addition to being athletes, football players are students. They learn by listening to their coaches, studying their playbooks and watching film.

Some, like rookie Dallas linebacker Victor Butler, also take advantage of veteran players around them. In Butler's case, he gets to learn from one of the very best: DeMarcus Ware.

When the two first met, Butler approached Ware and let the Cowboys' star know that the wide-eyed rookie from Oregon State was going to have questions — lots of questions. The two exchanged phone numbers after their first workout together, and Butler has lived up to his promise to pepper Ware with questions.

"Oh, man — all kinds," Butler said when asked what kinds of things he has learned from Ware. "We exchanged numbers, and I'm in our playbook 24 hours a day, and when I don't know something, he told me I can call him. I've called him, (even at) 12 o'clock at night, and … he'll break it down to me, real patient, help me after practice with pass-rush moves and during practice with pass-rush moves, and little tips here and there after coming off the field, so he's been a great help."

Ware's lessons have been particularly helpful to Butler, who was prohibited from taking part in all of the Cowboys' Organized Team Activities (OTAs) because he had to return to Oregon State until the school year finished. Now back on the field with his teammates, Butler said he's starting to feel comfortable with his new team.

"There's only so much you can get from the playbook — you have to translate it to the field," Butler said. "That's why I was studying all these OTAs at home, but you still miss out on all the motion and check-downs and different formations. You get out here, and everything's moving 100 miles per hour, and after the first couple days, now it's slowed down and I can play football now.

"It was frustrating being away from the team. You get drafted and come to mini-camp, and then you can't be here with your new team. I went back, and I was working hard, staying in the playbook, and staying in the weight room."

When he headed back to Corvallis, Butler took with him his now ever-present playbook, and some tips for how he should work in the weight OSU room.

"I wouldn't say (the Cowboys required) new lifts — just a new way of lifting," Butler said. "They added a lot of reps, so I'd go three sets, but do a ton of reps in each set. I'm used to doing a ton of sets, but with low reps — sets of three and sets of two — and now I'm doing three sets of 10 or three sets of 12. With the lower reps, you're building muscle and building strength. Now, with the higher reps, you're building your flexibility, so you can really stand strong."

But while Butler diligently buries his nose in his playbook and labors in the weight room, it is his willingness to seek out answers — and Ware's willingness to share his knowledge — that Butler said give him the best chance for success.

"I've never had a problem asking for help, and the first day I got here, I pulled him aside in a little break we had in individuals, and I told him, ‘I'm going to be bugging you.'" Butler said. "We exchanged numbers in the locker room, and I've been using his number. I want to get better, and I'm taking every opportunity to get better. You've got a guy that got a jillion sacks this last season … why wouldn't you want to learn from this guy?"

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