Scouting a prospect is often compared to putting together a giant puzzle piece. That puzzle piece contains four moving parts that must be studied and taken into consideration. Those four parts include statistics, film, athletic testing and character. With statistics and film available online and the NFL Combine being bigger than ever, it is easier than ever for the public to come to their own conclusions on prospects. A prospect’s character is one area that remains very difficult to explore, unless you are a professional scout, but through intensive research, perhaps the task is not as impossible as it seems.
The departure of Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown has left big shoes for the Pittsburgh Steelers to fill. There would be no bigger way to fill Brown’s shoes than by drafting the gigantic 6’5 wide receiver Hakeem Butler from Iowa State. Butler has exploded onto the scene despite playing at a lesser known school and his draft stock continues to soar. Off the field, Butler’s character can be described as hardened as he has battled adversity throughout all of his life
Here is a piece from Des Moines that details how Butler has battled the odds of his environment since he was just a kid. He grew up in a tough neighborhood in Baltimore but Butler was still thriving as a basketball star at the time. The receiver’s world received its biggest challenge yet when his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when he was around 13-14. An excerpt from the article reveals a touching tidbit on Butler’s rising role in his household with his mother ill.
“When his mom would go to the doctor, he’d help carry her up and down the steps. Hakeem helped his mother take her medicine. He also helped his brother with his homework and answered any questions he needed. He was a son, father and brother all rolled into one.”
Unfortunately, Butler’s mother passed away from breast cancer in October 2012. Butler was just 16 years old, though he credits his mother for his amazing work ethic.
“You have to work hard every single day of your life. You can’t take any days off when it comes down to it. She worked every single day. I see how hard she worked, but she had her fun, too. You would never catch her without a smile on her face. That’s what I took from her,” says Butler in a Draft Wire interview.
Shortly after his mother’s death, the receiver moved to Texas to live with his aunt and uncle. It is there that his football career really took off. More adversity was on the way as Butler was rated as just a two-star recruit and did not have many other offers besides Houston and Iowa State. He chose Iowa State and from there he exploded into national discussion, finishing with 60 receptions for 1318 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He did this through a consistent work ethic that did not go unnoticed by those around him.
“There’s that ‘wow’ factor to him. He comes every day and practices like it’s game day and when you’re 6-6 and can run like he can and you’re loose and have that type of catch radius, fun things will show up,” says Iowa State receiving coach Bryan Gasser.
Butler compares his work ethic to a dog mentality, saying “You’ve got to be a dog, you can’t take no days off.”
Though he is currently finished all his necessary workouts with the NFL Combine and Iowa State pro-days in the past, Butler is continuing to work on his craft, training with former NFL receivers Calvin Johnson and Anquan Boldin.
Butler has battled obstacle over obstacle over his life and career. Each time the odds did not seem to be in his favor but through maturity and a strong work ethic, the receiver has continued to beat the odds. Now he awaits to hear his name on Draft Day, possibly even in the first round. Butler would likely invite you to bet against him as he has proved time and time again that the only thing he does better than catching a football is proving others wrong.
In honor of his mother’s life, Butler has also started a Pledge It campaign for breast cancer research and awareness.