Darius Butler: Ready For Prime Time

Cornerback Darius Butler was ignored by all the big schools around his Florida home, so he headed north to Connecticut to make his mark. After impressing perhaps the greatest cornerback ever to play the game, Butler was invited to an elite training ground. Read more about this draft prospect who has grabbed Atlanta's interest.

He was once a 165-pound high school quarterback, and he's now one of the better secondary prospects in the country. How did Darius Butler, the pride of the Coral Springs Charter High Panthers, get ignored by all the local and regional colleges? "I went to a brand new school and the football team wasn't really developed," Butler said at the 2009 Scouting Combine. "They were playing like six games a year or something like that. Before my junior year, they brought in a new coach and I played. I used (being snubbed) as motivation more than anything."

Butler's high school coach had an in at Connecticut, though, and that's where Butler went. He started immediately -- all 11 games as a freshman, all but one in 2006, 13 total in 2007 and all but the last two games of his senior campaign with a MCL sprain. That's 44 in all, with his final two years as a team captain for good measure.

As a cornerback, Butler picked off four passes each in 2005 and 2006, but those numbers went down to two in 2007 and none in 2008, which was primarily the product of opposing offenses throwing the other way. He was also a threat on the other side of the ball, catching eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in his senior season. He also scored a touchdown as a runner on a reverse against Virginia, and racked up 471 yards on 20 kickoff returns.

"I'm pretty good," Butler said of his pass-catching ability. "My head coach in college actually told me if I played receiver (from the beginning), I'd be a better receiver than I am a corner. (I was) probably 10-15 snaps a game. And just in some certain situations on third down." And he's all in if an NFL team wants him to run some Wildcat plays.

Still, it's as a cornerback Butler will make his bones, and that ability caught the eye of Deion Sanders in Butler's senior year. Sanders left a message for the youngster and invited him to train for the Combine at his Dallas facility. Sanders was the NFL's last true shutdown corner, and his education of draft prospects -- made famous on the recent NFL Network documentary, "Prime U", was a real eye-opener for Butler and his classmates.

"I kept in close contact with him after (the message)," Butler said. Sent him some film. He was kind of tweaking me during the season. I knew I was going to go down there to train after the season. Before I even found an agent or anything (Drew Rosenhaus is his agent), that's the decision I made. He's taught me a lot. A lot I learned in college. I'll be down there with him for another month after the Combine. So, it's great."

Currently ranked third among draftable cornerbacks by NFLDraftScout.com, Butler's equal facility in man and zone coverage schemes makes him an appealing prospect for several NFL teams. Through the Combine and Senior Bowl, the Falcons, Seahawks, Ravens, Dolphins, and Vikings have shown the most interest. Why does he think he'll make an impact?

"I think (my ability) will translate pretty well. In the NFL, you can't really touch a guy after five yards. It's not like college. So my hips, my feet and just opening up and running with guys will help me."

Butler is getting ready for his Pro Day on March 25, and the draft just a month after. Then, he'll find out if his preparation with one Prime Time has him ready for another.

Doug Farrar is the Publisher of FalconInsider.com. You can also find his work on Football Outsiders, ESPN.com, the Washington Post, and the Seattle Times. Feel free to contact Doug here.

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