LINCOLN — Defensive back Tony Butler doesn't think it'll necessarily be easy, transitioning from high school football to Nebraska. But Butler played high school football at such an elite school — St. Edward's in the Cleveland metro — that he isn't going to be cowed by the Huskers' athletes once he arrives, either.
“It would be a culture shock for a lot of people,” Butler said. “It won’t be a culture shock for me. I’m used to going against great players every day.”
St. Edward won its second straight Division I Ohio state title and finished in the top 10 in most national high school rankings. Butler faced many of the best teams and college prospects in Ohio. More to the point, the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder faced top prospects in practice, especially as a junior, when he daily faced four teammates who ended up at either Notre Dame, Michigan State or Ohio State.
“It’d get pretty heated in practice sometimes,” said Butler, a three-star prospect according to all four major recruiting services who chose Nebraska over West Virginia and Arizona State, among others. “But that was a good thing, because you got better.”
St. Edward, located in Lakewood, just west of downtown Cleveland, usually got opponents’ best shot, too.
“Even if you were playing some sorry 0-12 team, for that one week, they’d have something extra,” Butler said. “You know that running back would run a little bit harder and that wide receiver would run his route a little bit better because there’d be that extra hype.”
Butler, who became the 16th commit in the class, played corner at St. Edward. His job was to take away the opponent's No. 1 receiver, and St. Edward coach Tom Lombardo said Butler did so at an elite level. Teams just didn't look Butler's way. He had just one interception and six pass breakups, but Lombardo said that St. Edward had seven sacks because of Butler's downfield coverage forced quarterbacks to eat the ball.
“He had a pretty good reputation going,” Lombardo said.
Butler figures to play safety or inside cornerback when Nebraska deploys five defensive backs. Butler is used to the tight, press coverage that St. Edward preferred. He said it would be a slight adjustment to move back to safety where he’d be off the ball, but he expects to make the transition OK.
Butler was originally committed to Pittsburgh last March, but opened up his recruitment over the summer as he attracted more attention. Arizona State and West Virginia — along with Michigan — moved to the top of the list. Nebraska got into the mix in part because of another Husker target, Waterford (Mich.) Mott wideout Desmond Fitzpatrick, with whom Butler is close friends. One week after St. Edward won the state title inside Ohio Stadium's Horseshoe, Butler was at NU practice, taking an official visit.
He warmed to defensive backs coach Brian Stewart.
“He’s real chill, and he’ll tell you how it is,” said Butler, who’d like to study physical therapy at Nebraska. “He’s real honest with you, and he’ll tell you how to get better.”
Butler said he silently committed to coach Mike Riley in December, though he was looking to visit Arizona State in mid-January. Butler hinted there may be another silent commitment to Nebraska, as well.
He is the No. 546 player in the nation — and the No. 51 cornerback — according to the 247Sports Composite service. ESPN has Butler rated the highest as the No. 32 cornerback in the country.
Butler becomes NU's third true defensive back commit in the 2016 class, joining Calabasas (Calif.) athlete Marquel Dismuke and Miami Southridge cornerback DiCaprio Bootle. Dismuke is projected to start his NU career at cornerback, as well. Athlete recruit Jojo Domann, of Colorado Springs (Colo.) Pine Creek High School, is expected to start his career at safety, but he could slide down to linebacker, as well. Nebraska continues its pursuit of top 100 athlete Lamar Jackson, who is scheduled to announce his decision on Bleacher Report on Jan. 28 between Nebraska, Arizona State, UCLA and USC.
Here's a video of Butler's announcement: