All-state athlete coming to Cougs

Jason Butler

IT WON'T COUNT against scholarship numbers but WSU's 2006 recruiting class has effectively grown by one. Highly decorated prep receiver Jason Butler, out of Bellevue's Eastside Catholic, has eschewed a scholarship offer elsewhere for the opportunity to walk-on at Washington State as a safety.

Butler (6-2, 205) spent nine hours on Eastern Washington's campus recently, gathering as much information as he possibly could on the school that had given him a scholarship offer. He then traveled to Pullman. From the moment he got to the Palouse, he said it felt like home.

THE BUTLER FILE:

  • First team all-league free safety
  • 72 tackles and five interceptions on defense
  • First team all-state on offense
  • Seattle Times ‘Star Times' All Area Team
  • Seattle P-I All Area Team
  • Offensive Co-MVP - Metro League (Taylor Mays)
  • 63 Receptions for 1003 Yards and 14 touchdowns.
  • 886 kickoff return yards and 3 TDs, 18 punt returns for 219 yards and 2 TDs.
  • 3A state record for receptions in a game (20 vs. Mt Si).
  • A National Honor Society Member, Butler holds a 3.7 GPA
  • "A lot of the (EC) coaches came out of there and said the WSU coaches would make me a lot better," said Butler. "And it was partly just the school itself. I just felt a lot more comfortable there. All around it was a better fit."

    Butler didn't tell the WSU coaches, however, at that time. Nor did he pick up the phone over the following week and call coaches Ken Greene or Mike Levenseller. He waited until he could come back over the mountains the following week during Eastside Catholic's break.

    "I just wanted to go over in person to let them know I was committing myself 100 percent to them, let them know I had declined an offer at Eastern and that I was serious about it," said Butler. "I want to be one of the guys sooner rather than later, and I wanted to make a good impression early on."

    CRUCIAL TO THAT end for Butler was to be among the invited walk-on group that reports for fall camp with the scholarship players in August, something Greene told Butler he will indeed be a part of. (Schools are allowed 105 practice players for most of fall camp. After classes begin, additional walk-ons are allowed to join the team)


    Butler was first team all league at safety in both his junior and senior years.

    Making for a smooth transition into Greene's secondary, Butler said he'll be coming to WSU from a familiar system at Eastside Catholic.

    "My defensive high school coaches are good friends with him and coach in the same style as him."

    THE PRIMARY REASON the Cougs were in a position to pick up Butler was because of a perceived lack of top end speed. Still, he runs a 4.6 in the 40 and clocked a 50.1 in the 400 last year. That's not lightning in a bottle, but it's also anything but slow. He was also fast enough to pile up over 1,000 return yards in 2005, taking five of the returns all the way.

    Butler will be running track this season with an eye towards improving that speed, competing in the 100 and 200 meters and the 4x400 Relay.

    And players who star at one position in high school often play elsewhere in college. Still, given Butler's offensive prowess in high school, it's noteworthy he'll begin his Cougar career at safety. That's just fine by him. He found it surprising last year most schools weren't looking at him for defense, because he saw himself being a bigger contributor at free or strong safety rather than receiver at the next level.

    THERE HAVE CERTAINLY BEEN Cougar walk-ons who've earned the full ride and become difference makers. Most fans know about the WSU kickers and punters of years past -- Kyle Basler, Drew Dunning and Jason Hanson -- who all began their storied careers out on the Palouse walking on. But position players of recent vintage have also done the same.

    Players like LB Grady Emmerson, C Mike Shelford, WR Scott Lunde and LB Mawuli Davis all had two attributes eerily reminiscent of Butler. One is talent, and the other is a tremendous work ethic and drive.


    On offense, Butler broke every school receiving record at Eastside Catholic.

    Butler got in the car this last week to drive five hours to tell the coaches in person he was coming to Washington State. That sounds like something Shelford -- who worked his tail off 24/7 to earn a scholarship -- would have done. Or Davis, who was one of the most valuable players of the 2002 Rose Bowl team. Emmerson planned to walk on as a baseball player but kept missing the coach and decided to stop by the football office one day. He became an integral cog, starting several games.

    And then there's Lunde, probably closest to Butler in terms of speed and build. The 6-2, 213 pound Vancouver, Wash., native's lone offer was from Oregon State. It was later rescinded when Dennis Erickson took over for Mike Riley. No one else in the Pac-10 stepped up with a full ride, he was considered too slow.

    All Lunde did was walk-on, earn a WSU scholarship after the Ohio State game in 2002, and become the team's second leading receiver the following year. And no one who was in Pullman will ever forget his electrifying two touchdown performance in the 36-30 comeback win over Oregon State in '03.

    BUTLER CAN BE one of these guys -- so says his prep coach.

    "It is my opinion that Jason would step in as a positive force and playmaker on ANY team at the college level," says Bill Marsh, Football Coach and Athletic Director at Eastside Catholic.


    "Jason is by far the best athlete I've coached in 12-plus years," says Marsh.

    "Jason is the hardest working athlete I've ever coached. He‘s a truly first class young man with a super family, and is respected by the entire student body, facility and staff."

    As for Butler, he was initially disappointed he didn't pick up a Pac-10 offer but that's over with now. It's still about picking up that full ride from Washington State, just in a different way.

    "I'm going there to earn a scholarship," said Butler.

    There are over 13 minutes of tape of Butler for CF.C subscribers on his player page.

    Jason Butler profile and four video segments

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