Buccaneers Draft Prospect Profile: Larry Butler III

Jul 28, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers helmet during training camp at One Buc Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 28, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers helmet during training camp at One Buc Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Buccaneers continue to prepare to enter the time of year dominated by big names from big schools, there is a lesser known player from a Division-II school beginning to gain some buzz.

Larry Butler III is no stranger to adversity, so trying to break into the NFL out of Division-II Southern Nazarene University is just the sort of challenge he’s ready to overcome. His road to draft day wasn’t supposed to be this way, but he’s made the most of the opportunities in front of him and is preparing to take the next step in becoming a professional football player.

At 5’11”, 236-lbs, Butler played, and excelled, at linebacker. His journey to this point has had its share of adversity, starting with going to college. After being recruited by New Mexico and the University of Houston, Butler came up short on the ACT scores required for admittance. He opted for the Junior College, or JUCO, route and playing for Eastern Arizona. While there, he was recruited by four SEC schools, but hit yet another bump in the road. The SEC administers a “three-semester” rule, declaring a “non-qualifier” must attend a Junior College for three semesters, or four quarters, before becoming eligible for transfer. Butler did not meet that requirement, and his journey took him to New Mexico State.

Unfortunately, due to a clerical error by Eastern Arizona, New Mexico State didn’t receive his transcript by the deadline and Butler was told he would forfeit a year of eligibility. Upon missing the 2013 season, Butler only had one year remaining of Division-I eligibility, so he opted for Division-II to regain his lost season.

That brings us to Southern Nazarene University.

At SNU Butler was a two-time All-American and was also ranked the number one JUCO linebacker by ESPNU. Played through a broken hand, came back from a leg injury, and continued to warrant the attention of NFL scouts. I spoke with Larry a few times over the last couple weeks and he told he had been in contact with the Buccaneers, Packers, Falcons, Giants, Browns, Rams, Raiders, and Chargers among others. Due to the demand he had created, Butler was invited to participate in the University of Tulsa’s pro day, attended by representatives of 24 NFL teams.

"“I was the only Division-II player allowed to participate in the pro day because I had a high number of scouts request to see me work out. That doesn’t usually happen, so I was blessed to be able to participate and I thank the University of Tulsa for that opportunity.”"

Butler measured in at 5’11”, 236-lbs, which was 18-lbs lighter than his playing weight. Some scouts had asked Butler to shed some weight and were extremely impressed he dropped as much as he did thus far in the off-season. Butler’s vertical jumps measured in at 30.5″ and 31″, while his broad jump measured in at 9’2″. He hit 27 reps on his bench press, the most of any player in attendance that day. Then, adversity struck again.

Within the first 10-yards of his 40-yard dash, Butler pulled his hamstring. Despite the pull, Butler still ran a 4.78, but was unable to finish the rest of the day, missing out on position drills. A few teams have already asked him to come in for a private workout once his hamstring is ready to go.

Butler had the opportunity to speak with scouts from the Packers, Browns, Patriots, Colts, and Broncos, was given the Wonderlic test by a Rams scout, and spoke in general with others who were just trying to learn the basics of who Butler is, where he comes from, and what he’s about. Although the Bucs were not in attendance, they are still showing interest in Butler come April, which will certainly give some much needed help in the linebacking corps.

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Now, it’s always difficult for these late round picks and, should things not go Butler’s way and he becomes an undrafted free agent, to make the team. We’ve heard time and time again how important special teams are to making a football team, and Butler is prepared for that.

"“I know the importance of special teams, how crucial it is to every single game. It can change the outcome. I’m definitely going to embrace playing special teams. I’ve played it before and I can play all four special teams. I think I can start on all of them. I have no reservations about doing anything to help the team. When I was over 255-lbs, some scouts had mentioned switching to fullback and I had no problems with that either. Anything I can do to help the team, make the team, I’m all for it.”"

Willing to do whatever it takes, versatile, and hungry. These are the traits of Larry Butler III. He can play in a 4-3 or 3-4, inside or outside (but prefers inside). Admits he needs to work on dropping in coverage, but that’s something he’s already focused on.

Next: 2016 NFL Mock Draft 3.0

It’s truly been an honor for me to follow Larry Butler III over the coarse of the last year as he continued to pursue his dreams. Watching him play, watching his drive to make his dream come true. To make it to the NFL, help take care of his mother, who faced her own struggles as a single parents. There is no quit, no obstacle he won’t take on. And a player who carries himself with class and emanates respect to those around him. Keep your eyes and ears open, Bucs fans. Come time for the NFL draft, if the Buccaneers are lucky enough to find themselves in a position to take Butler, you should consider yourselves fortunate.