Shared from the 2017-09-13 The Providence Journal eEdition

PATRIOTS

Plan A still bringing results for rookie Butler

Undrafted free agent played well in opener

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Adam Butler, shown chasing down Tennessee wide receiver Jauan Jennings while playing for Vanderbilt last season, started his career with the Commodores as an offensive lineman. [AP FILES / MARK HUMPHREY]

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Butler

FOXBORO — Adam Butler was a big, fast and strong youngster growing up in Northeast Texas, so, of course, he played football. And, of course, he dreamed of one day playing in the NFL.

Butler’s dad, Clarence, who has since retired from the Air Force after putting in 25 years of service, and his mom, Kim, a group nursing and facility administrator, urged the largest of their three children to chase those dreams.

“They told me I could do it,” Butler said on Monday.

They also told him to have a Plan B. So Butler made sure he excelled in the classroom as well as on the field, making the honor roll and earning all-district academic recognition while attending Duncanville High outside of Dallas.

The decorated student-athlete earned a scholarship to Vanderbilt, where he graduated with a degree in environmental communication. It’s a major he created by combining environmental science and communications studies.

Initially interested in working in the environmental field in some capacity, Butler has since drafted Plan C.

“Now I want to be a public speaker, especially to the African-American youth to let them know that their dreams can come true just like mine,” he said.

You remember those dreams? Plan A?

They were realized when Butler made the Patriots’ 53-man roster earlier this month as an undrafted rookie. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive tackle made his NFL debut on Thursday as the Patriots opened the season with a 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I always think about my childhood and I always think about telling my parents that I wanted to do this for a living,” Butler said. “And to actually live it — I can’t, I don’t even know how to put it into words. It’s kind of like hitting the lottery. You hope, you hope and then, boom, there it is.”

Butler said he got chills from running out of the inflatable tunnel at Gillette Stadium for the first time in a game that meant something in the standings. His eyes lit up at the fireworks and his ears buzzed from the sound of nearly 66,000 fans roaring their approval.

The Chiefs threw a big bucket of cold water on the festivities by evening’s end, but not before Butler accorded himself well. He made a solo tackle, twice forced quarterback Alex Smith into rushed throws and drew a holding penalty while playing 21 defensive snaps (30 percent), mainly in third-down, pass-rushing situations.

That capped a week that saw Butler join offensive lineman Cole Croston, tight end Jacob Hollister and linebacker Harvey Langi as undrafted rookies that survived the cut.

“It’s been such a humbling experience,” Butler said. “I love being around guys like Tom Brady and stuff like that. I’m just glad to be here.”

The Patriots have a knack for unearthing unpolished and undrafted gems and they may have found another one in Butler, especially considering his lack of experience on defense.

Butler played left tackle for his final two years of high school and was shifted to guard-center as a freshman at Vanderbilt. After red-shirting, he switched sides and moved to defensive tackle during spring workouts.

“At that point I was just willing to take any job that was available to me because in the past I didn’t get those opportunities as a young guy,” Butler said. “So at that point I was just like, ‘Whatever you got for me, bring it on.’ I just wanted to get on the field so I could at least have a shot at what I’m doing now and it just all worked out.”

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