Earning his chance
- Bill Wilson
- The Times - Sports
Sherwood High grad Brian Butterfield will get the opportunity to play at defensive back for the Ducks
Brian Butterfield was all set to play wide receiver for the University of Oregon.
Then the call came.
The Ducks had a change of heart. The 2006 Sherwood graduate wasn't going to be a preferred walk-on with an assured spot on the team. In fact, he wasn't part of Oregon's offensive plans all together.
But that was all good for Butterfield. The Ducks had a better idea. They wanted him to come down to Eugene earlier and start practicing with the recruited players when camp opened Monday.
Just one catch - Oregon's coaching staff wanted to switch Butterfield over to the other side as a defensive back.
'I was not one bit disappointed,' Butterfield said. 'I always thought I played better at wide receiver. But I would play d-back in a heartbeat. I don't want to be a wide receiver anymore. I think defensive back is where I was meant to play.'
Butterfield helped the Bowmen finish as the Class 3A state runner-up the past two seasons with a total of 83 catches for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He got it in his head he wanted to play college football his sophomore year and took the necessary steps to make that possible. Butterfield attended the Nike Combine and Day Camp where he generated some interest from Oregon, who offered him the preferred walk-on spot.
'I've never been one to settle for anything but the best,' Butterfield said. 'If I was going to play football, I wanted to go to a big school.'
Butterfield was to arrive on campus with the rest of the incoming freshman and begin practicing without a tryout or cuts a few weeks after the rest of the Ducks had begun camp.
'I was really excited about that,' Butterfield said. 'Then a month ago I talked to the recruiter again and he asked me what I thought about playing defense.'
Oregon's secondary coach John Neal became interested in Butterfield and a new situation presented itself. He'd now be headed to Eugene early and start practice with the rest the recruits and returning players.
'I said yes and the whole situation changed,' Butterfield said. 'I realized this was a big opportunity for me. They're more than interested because they want me to come down early.'
Butterfield always envisioned himself playing wide receiver, but the more he thought about it, being on the defensive side became all that more appealing.
'On offense you can score and be the hero,' he said. 'It's more enticing when you first start football. But as time goes on, going across the middle and getting lit up is not that much fun. It's better to be the guy who does it.'
Butterfield also found that playing defense came more naturally to him as far as the footwork and ability to backpedal - two big keys to success. He also began to appreciate the mentality.
'It's much more pressure than playing offense and I always do well in pressure,' Butterfield said. 'You always have in the back of you mind 'What if I get beat?' If you drop a ball on offense, it's not that bad. You have four downs. But if you screw up on defense, it can change the whole game.'
While he was still in offensive mode, Butterfield attended Greg Barton's Passing and Skill Position Camp in the spring at Lewis and Clark College. There he met Ryan Paul, who was working with the wide receivers.
Paul's hard-nosed attitude initially turned off Butterfield. But he soon learned that Paul would play a big part in his development this summer.
Paul runs New Athlete - a sport-specific training company in Vancouver. Among others things, he works on injury prevention and how to train the muscles to take on more impact than normal. He also started skill-set training specific to what his body needs as a defensive back.
For the past three months, Butterfield traveled to Vancouver four days a week for two- to three-hour sessions with Paul.
'He's a great person to work with,' Butterfield said. 'I've definitely seen the results. I've gotten stronger and faster overall.'
Which Butterfield needed. As a junior, Butterfield, who is just under 6-feet, barely topped 140 pounds. He came out of the 2005 football season at 158 pounds, which is still light for a defensive back, especially at the Division I-A level.
Butterfield has since gotten up to 175 pounds, though the Ducks' coaching staff didn't have much concern with his size.
'Coach Neal didn't want a 200-pound slow kid,' Butterfield said. 'He wanted me to come in as fast as I can be.'
The next question for Butterfield will be where he fits in the secondary. Paul believes Butterfield, who ran a 4.5 40, won't be fast enough to be a cornerback, where he played the past three seasons for Sherwood. He played a little free safety as a sophomore and junior and is working on his strength if that is to be his path.
Butterfield's not too concerned though. He's just pleased to have an opportunity coming out of a school with roughly 200 students in his graduating class.
'If you're the greatest talent at Sherwood, obviously you're going to get looked at,' Butterfield said. 'If not, you have to put yourself out there.'
To do so, he did what he could on the field and attended camps in California since fifth grade.
While his play on the field provided the highlights, Butterfield had some help in assuring others saw them.
'I have my mom to thank for that,' he said. 'She did that and let me concentrate on football.'
While his mother, Tracie, took care of that aspect, his father, Bill, put him in the places to get noticed.
'He knows the game very well,' Butterfield said of his father, who played defensive back in college. 'He was my mentor on the sideline when we went to camps.'
Now that he's found a spot at Oregon, Butterfield has to find his spot on the team.
'I'm nervous, but not really scared,' he said. 'I'm anxious to be on the field and measure up with the other athletes out there. My mom always said that people can say you can or can't do this. But they won't really know until they see you on the field.'
Butterfield showed what he could do on the field at Sherwood and was a big part of the Bowmen's run to two straight trips to the state title game. He enjoyed the junior season with many of his closest friends in that senior class. That experience seemed to make a return trip an easier trek for the 2005 team.
'The two seasons were completely different. That's what made them so fun,' Butterfield said. 'I wouldn't trade either of those years for anything else.'
But it could do nothing to ease the pain of another loss in the championship game.
'It eats everyone up, 'Butterfield said. 'Everyone knew coming back to the locker room, if we played them again, we could beat them. It just wasn't our day. It sucked big time for everyone.'
That game also gave Butterfield a glimpse of how life would be at the next level. He had the assignment of covering Marist standout receiver Matt Frosland.
'The kid was tall, like 6-4,' Butterfield said. 'He took a step and I had to take two steps. It was good to cover someone like that in my final game.'
After spending most of the time on the football field as a two-way starter at Sherwood, Butterfield now must prepare himself to be an observer. He doesn't mind. He just wants a chance.
'I don't have a problem sitting and learning,' he said. 'I won't be distraught if I don't play for two years. I'll grow from that.'