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Jabari Butler Believes In Passion, Proves It On and Off the Field

North Carolina A&T University star Jabari Butler recently sat down with Craig Forrestal of NFL Draft Diamonds.

By Craig Forrestal

“Being different is difficult especially when you’re young,” was one of the many memorable quotes from Jabari Butler.

Being different allowed Butler to find his passion in life at an early age, “Football was an instant love, as soon as my feet touched the turf,” beginning in second grade. 

Passion is important to Butler as video games have led him to discover his post-playing career passion as he says, “E-sports and gaming really blew up in the middle of college for me. It is a passion of mine and in the future, I’d love to get involved with a startup company and buy ownership in an E-sports team.” Like many in his age bracket, video games served as a social tool and form of entertainment growing up for Butler; as Butler talks about the friendships he has created and been able to maintain by playing video games.

Butler mentioned how no matter what football, track and video games were always there for him, so he channeled his passion into those three with everything he had. The will to succeed has paid off in numerous ways for Butler; including an outrageous 100m dash time in high school of 10.65; which was the 3rd fastest time in the state that year. 

But for now, the E-sports dreams will have to wait as he chases down his ultimate goal of playing professional football. A goal that was met with uncertainty at one point.

Butler and his family began to notice something going on with his body in the 6th grade and it was not the usual changes that one experiences around this age. Butler explained that near the back of his head he began to lose his hair; coming as a great shock to Butler. The condition continued to advance and around the end of 7th grade, Butler had lost all his hair.

Alopecia is an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks the hair follicles, essentially, causing the inability to grow hair. Butler recalls the difficult times he faced as a child dealing with the condition, “People messed with you every day and I was a smaller kid.”

The curiosity continued with his own family questioning him and digging deeper for a medical answer as they thought his condition was more serious. These moments did three things for Butler: 1.) created a love of football 2.) created a love for video games 3.) find your tribe- you’re never that alone. However, the love of football came before all else, “Having Alopecia just made me pour everything into football,” said Butler. 

Butler recalls a touching moment when he was a senior in high school, “I remember one day in high school, I was at a track meet and this girl wearing an opponent’s hoodie came up to me real quick. I didn’t know what was happening at first and she pulled back her hood and looked at me saying ‘I got it too,’ and that really stuck with me. I mean she was rocking it and that confidence was special to me because I was really beginning to find myself.”

It is the patience in finding yourself that has allowed Butler the ability to embrace change and life as it comes. 

Butler has, also, taken a ride on football’s emotional roller coaster dating back to his high school days at Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas. Butler knew he had the ability to play high-level college football, but nobody came knocking. An odd occurrence when you consider the reputation of Bishop Gorman football. However, Butler pushed through the adversity and dominated a football camp where Abilene Christian University offered him on the spot and he almost committed equally as fast. 

Once again, Butler walked into a situation at ACU where determination would reign supreme. Butler battled his way through Summer Camp as a freshman and found his way into the starting lineup. And that proved to be a tremendous outcome for ACU as he recorded 6 INT and earned All-Southland Conference honors in 2015. Butler would play the 2016 season with ACU before transferring to Penn State.

Once Butler arrived on-campus with the Penn State football program he took a redshirt year in 2017 and after 2018 found himself looking for the ideal home for his final season.

And life is about to change again for Butler, after this season at North Carolina A&T, as he trains with Clay Mack Skills in Texas for his Pro Day.  Butler is training at the Aqib Talib Training Facility in partnership with D1 Sports Training. 

Butler is applying a variation of a concept he learned in college to prepare, “The season ends in November or December, so come January last season doesn’t really matter anymore. You have to focus on the upcoming year and improve on the previous year. That’s what I’m doing now. I’m improving on my skills focused on the next level and really demonstrating my ability when I get the chance.”

Butler is hungry to improve as detailed in his intense workouts beginning at 6:30 am. The skills-based training leads into combine drill work followed by a lift, but we can forget the all-important dynamic warm-up to get things rolling. “I get a little more work in during the afternoon depending on what my body is telling me and focus on other aspects of the game during this time as well,” was how Butler reacted, with a slight chuckle, as I was in awe of what he described. 

Butler will workout twice once with NCA&T on March 26 and the other will be at MFE Elite Pro Day in Pittsburgh, April 4. It is in these workouts that Butler plans to flash the strengths of his game which he considers to be speed, explosion, coming out of breaks and an overall strong DB skillset. Butler should marvel those in attendance and shared an interesting tidbit with me regarding his speed, “ When I was at Penn State whenever I timed in the 40 it was Saquon (Barkley) running his time, usually, in the 4.3s and I was right behind him.” Butler furthered the statement with “anything not in the 4.3s will be a disappointment,” regarding his Pro Day workouts.

Butler is a personality you instantly move towards. It is the combination of perspective due to what he has had to overcome off the field. As a child dealing with being different forced Butler to develop a tough shell and that translates to the football field because no matter where he is he feels he is always the best DB on the field, a mindset you need to be successful, but never compromising his work ethic. Butler will always find a way to get better but for now, he says, “It is unbelievable to be realizing my dreams. It is a blessing and I know that, so I treat it as such.”

Keep an eye out for Butler to make some noise coming up soon with a white-hot 40 yard dash time as his Pro Day approaches.


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