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Combine Interview: Arizona State's Darien Butler Asks Only for Opportunity

Arizona State linebacker Darien Butler is eager to show teams what he's capable of doing at the NFL Scouting Combine.

INDIANAPOLIS -- It's fair to say that Arizona State Sun Devils linebacker Darien Butler's energy on the field mirrors his personality off the gridiron.

Butler arrived to the podium ready and eager to field questions with a smile on his face, knowing the start of his NFL journey was well underway.

"Honestly, as long as I was playing ball. I always knew I was going to compete at the highest level," Butler said, when asked when it clicked that he may be cut from the cloth of so few that can make it in the league. 

Butler propelled himself to be one of the best linebackers in the Pac-12 conference after totaling 243 tackles in his career, seven defended passes, four sacks, four fumbles recovered, three interceptions and three forced fumbles. 

Butler anchored Arizona State's defense after his arrival in 2018, becoming ASU's first-ever true sophomore captain the following season and earned multiple Pac-12 All-Conference nods.

Butler opted out of Arizona State's bowl game this past season, electing to remain healthy and focus on his draft preparation. 

He said, "It definitely was a hard decision. I wanted to be out there so bad with my teammates, man. I was just sitting there, blood boiling, fired up for my guys. But I made the smart decision."

Butler said he hasn't had any formal interviews with teams, but did mention he spoke with the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. He has a message for all the teams that have met with him, and especially the ones that haven't.

"I just want them to know that when I get on that field, I'm giving everything I got. I'm one of those guys where I'm relentless, I'm fearless, decisive, violent and aggressive. When I walk around with a chip on my shoulder no matter who's next to me, I'm a competitor and I'm trying to be the best," he said.

For Butler, being the best has been nothing short of his expectation rather than a choice. 

"Us being here, for myself and my family, it means a lot," he said. "From where I come from, a lot of guys don't make it here. It's truly a blessing, it's an honor. I take pride in everything. We came so far, man."

"My parents made so many sacrifices so I could chase my dream; I'm here to make them proud."

Butler was one of eight Sun Devils invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, the most of any team from the Pac-12. Butler said he doesn't take for granted the relationships he built and achievements conquered while at ASU.

"It just reminds me that going to Arizona State, all of these guys are coming from different backgrounds. To build something with those guys over the last four years, to be here with them means a lot to me," said Butler. "Going out the way we did our senior year (38-15 victory over Arizona to keep the Territorial Cup with ASU for a fifth consecutive season) was something that was really important to me and I love those guys to death. It's something we dreamed of all of our lives."

Butler expanded and pointed to the coaching staff present during his time at Arizona State.

"Honestly, Coach Herm (Edwards) is a guy with a lot of energy, he gets you excited about ball, excited to come to work. Having him, Marvin Lewis and Antonio Pierce, guys like that, they get you excited about stuff like this. They've propelled not just me but everybody under them on that staff. Everybody that's coming up on this level, they definitely got us ready for this," said Butler.

"I just have to show that I belong. I have a great workout coming tomorrow (Friday). I just want to show everyone what I can do."

Butler admits he hasn't thought about the draft and what he will be doing, but he says he will spend it with his family when the time comes.

For now, Butler aims to improve his draft stock as much as possible between now and that day in late April.

"(I want to show teams) I can move around. A lot of people aren't sure if I can move inside or outside but I want to show (I can do) well in space, I can fly around, covering, whatever it is. I can do it all. My way to success is just being different. I know I will be successful, no matter what I'm doing," he said.

Butler, who plays very instinctively, attributes his success to the countless hours spent in the film room, where he readies himself for his opponent by looking for any detail that could give him an edge.

"Before a play happens I get the call, I'm looking at the down and distance. I start to read mannerisms, I look at formations, the backfield of course. I look at the play clock a lot; I really take care of the mannerisms. You see a lot of things on film that people show; I try to do stuff like that. I love watching film. It tells you everything you need to know (in terms of) the offensive philosophy and what they're trying to do," said Butler. 

Butler named Denzel Perryman and Devin White as two of the guys he's watched most at the next level. Yet for now, Butler remains a Sun Devils linebacker until he gets a phone call from an unfamiliar area code. 

Butler reflected on his career at Arizona State with his favorite memory:

"When I came in as a true freshman and I ended up starting against Michigan State. That was one of my biggest wins, and I was just a freshman. It was a sold-out game, it was crazy; 103 degrees. It was wild, so that was one of my favorites," said Butler, who was then asked about the memorable 70-7 thumping of Arizona in 2020.

"We're used to it. We don't get too happy about those. It's just something we're used to doing, beating on the Wildcats down south." 

Butler looks to carry his talents, and disdain for Arizona, to the league for quite a long time.