Darius Butler #20 FS
Height: 5-10 Weight: 186 Age: 27
Born: 3/18/1986 Fort Lauderdale , FL
Experience: 5th season
High School: Coral Springs Charter School [FL]
Selected By: New England Patriots
Pick (Overall): 9 (41)
Regarded as the premier cornerback in the Big East Conference, Butler added a new wrinkle to his game that would make New England Patriots fans clamoring for him to be their next Troy Brown. Always willing to help the team in any way he can, Butler was highly productive wearing two hats last season, seeing action as a receiver in addition to taking over kickoff return duties full-time.
A late-season knee injury prevented Butler from playing in the team's final three regular-season games, but he made a remarkable recovery to get back on the field for the Music City Bowl. During his absence lost two of those three contests, proving just how valuable his leadership and versatility were to the Huskies.
In 45 games at Connecticut, he finished eighth on the school's career record list with 10 interceptions, but he made the most out of those pass thefts, returning them for a total of 213 yards, the third-highest yardage in Connecticut annals. Two of those interceptions went for touchdowns, tying another school all-time mark.
Even though he was the team's full-time kickoff returner for just 2008, Butler filled in at that position from time to time his first three years, finishing with 895 return yards, the 10th-best total in school annals. He is also the first player in Big East Conference history to produce a touchdown on a kickoff return, interception, reception and rushing attempt in a career. In his last two seasons as a starting left cornerback, no opposing receiver was able to catch a touchdown pass or record more than two first downs in any game vs. him.
Butler also comes from a family with solid National Football League pedigree. His uncle, Gene Atkins, was a standout defensive back who played in the NFL from 1987-96 with the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins. His cousin, Baltimore Ravens running back Willis McGahee, was a first-round draft choice by the Buffalo Bills after earning All-American status at the University of Miami in 2002.
At little known Coral Springs Charter High School, Butler was the big man on campus, as he would become their first student-athlete to ever sign a national letter of intent to attend a major college. He was listed amongst the top 20 recruits in talent-rich Broward County by the Miami Herald, despite not playing football until his junior year.
Butler received All-County honors from both the Herald and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and was an honorable mention All-State selection. Playing quarterback in an option offense, he both rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards in 2003 while also starting at safety on defense. He totaled 2,491 total yards as a senior and was responsible for 25 touchdowns.
Butler finished third in Broward County in rushing yards in 2003 and was second in completions, attempts and passing yards. The team captain was also selected for the Dade-Broward All-Star Game. He also excelled in basketball, adding All-County honors as he scored more than 1,000 career points.
Butler spent the 2004 season as the premier player on Connecticut's scout team. In 2006, he was the only defensive player to start every game, earning Freshman All-American honors from The NFL Draft Report after gaining 140 yards with a touchdown on four pass thefts, as he also deflected eight other throws. He recorded 36 tackles (24 solos) and averaged 33.8 yards on 10 kickoff returns, becoming the first player in school history to return a kickoff and interception for a touchdown in the same season.
In 2006, Butler started 10 games, missing the Syracuse clash with a sore hamstring. He added another four interceptions to go with seven pass break-ups. He also delivered 50 tackles (36 solos), ranking sixth on the team, and produced two stops for loss.
Butler was named team captain as a junior in 2007. The All-Big East Conference choice collected 54 tackles (37 solos) with 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. He broke up seven passes and intercepted two others, returning one for a touchdown. He caught the attention of pro scouts, who were in attendance at the Louisville game to review the Cardinals' Harry Douglas. Assigned to cover the receiver, Butler held him to a career-low 19 yards receiving, as he knocked two passes out of Douglas' hands and picked off another.
A member of The NFL Draft Report's All-American Dream Team, Butler picked up All-Big East Conference first-team honors in 2008. In 10 games, the two-time team captain posted 40 tackles (28 solos), including three stops for loss. He did not have any interceptions for the first time in his career, but broke up four throws and averaged 23.5 yards on 20 kickoff returns. On offense, he caught nine passes for 123 yards (13.7 avg) with a touchdown and scored again on a pair of rushing attempts.