“Sometimes you just have to stop caring and ball out,” is what Tennessee defensive tackle Matthew Butler advised younger athletes about their path to success. Butler’s easygoing demeanor helped him reach a level of success in this year’s NFL Draft, where he was picked up by the Las Vegas Raiders.
Butler began playing football at a young age. His first recollection was on a flag football team, where he said they “sucked.” The next team that he played for, which was tackle football, ended up being good and winning a championship.
After the championship, his team was separated and put on different teams. It was at that point that Butler didn’t play football for a few years, but was occupied with martial arts and other sports.
When Butler came back to football in middle school, he realized that he really enjoyed it and wanted to play at the next level. Since then, he’s been motivated to succeed on any team he will be on. Now, that will be with the Raiders.
“There’s some things I want to accomplish that haven’t happened yet,” said Butler. “That doesn’t mean I won’t be better. I want to be better as a football player and as a man.”
This drive trickled into his work ethic in preparing for the draft. Physically, Butler had to become acquainted with the Combine movements. He went through the process with his Pro Day and the East-West Shrine Bowl, but it was about prepping in new ways to get acclimated to the NFL.
“For a month and some change, it was all Combine movements. It’s really nuance where small things can affect a 40 [-yard dash],” Butler said. “You get one shot at everything; there’s a level of professionalism that needs to be there.”
Mentally, Butler always felt like he had a great mindset. He chooses to be in the present and emphasized how you only get one shot. Instead of getting anxious and stressed over the process, he wanted to take it easy and soak it in.
“Talking to me I have a calm demeanor, but football is not a calm game. There’s aspects of the game that you want to perfect,” Butler said. “There’s a lot of aspects to my game that are refined. I’m going to be able to showcase it. Every year in the NFL, I’m going to get better. I put this into practice.”
One thing Butler is excited for is the ability to bring his versatility to a team and “ball out” early on, much like a handful of rookies do every year.
“The biggest thing with that is those guys, though they’re first-round talents, they have a work ethic and demeanor that allows them to be a pro,” Butler said. “Be a pro long before you’re a pro. If you have it, it’s going to translate well to the pros.”
Butler believes this self-motivating mindset will constitute long-term success.
“I really watch a lot of football; I don’t watch just the big names,” Butler said. “I just try to pick some things and apply them to my game. Be crafty but refined.”
Though Butler was hoping for a call in the first two days of the draft, after being selected in the fifth round, he and his family are fortunate that he can continue doing what he loves, especially at the next level.
Butler’s advice to younger players hoping to get their shot is something that matches up to his calm demeanor.
“You know what work you put in. If you’re worried, you didn’t put enough work in,” Butler said.