September 3, 1998
by Brett Sowell
A game of leverage, a battle of technique and strength. Those are the words used by senior Matt Butler to describe one of the lesser known and understood aspects of football – the offensive line.
Although playing the offensive line is not as glamorous as many of the other positions on the gridiron, it’s importance cannot be understated. Butler has become a student of the game when it comes to play in the trenches. He knows strength alone will not win the battle on those fall afternoons.
“Playing on the line is really physical and at the same time very technical. I think technique is even more important on the offensive line than strength,” Butler states.
“You have to be strong to play on the line, but technique gets you a lot further while strength gets you out of jams. If your technique isn’t there, you are going to get beat, I don’t care how strong you are. You could be strong enough to pick up a building, it’s not going to help you. It is a lot of hand placement and a lot of feet work. It’s a game of leverage. If you don’t get the position to beat the opposing defensive player with leverage, you’re going to lose.”
The Belmont, NC native understands that when it comes to the O-line, there is more going on there than meets the eye. “It is really hard to see everything that is going on out there on the line. If I was watching from the sidelines, I would not be able to tell what a guard and a tackle are doing.”
“The tackle and guard positions are a lot more different than people realize. They are almost like two different kinds of players. It’s just like the big difference between a fullback and a tailback in terms of what each player does. One person can be good at one position and not be good at the other.”
Butler’s understandings of the inner workings of the offensive line has turned into 31 appearances in seasons as a Tiger (redshirted in 1994) heading into the 1998 season. Eight of those 31 games were starts during the 1996 campaign. He begins this season listed as a first-team offensive tackle.
The youngest of three children, Butler is a good student as well. He made the 1997-98 ACC academic honor roll in his major of construction science and management.
There is no real secret to Butler’s success in the classroom as he explains, “I really enjoy my major a lot. I do all my homework and all of my assignments and that is about it.”
Butler not only enjoys his major, but he enjoys talking about it as well. He feels that his major of choice is preparing him to head down many different roads within the construction profession.
“The major teaches you a lot about construction, the materials you need, management and law. A lot of the professors were in construction work and they try to teach us how it is really going to be in the real world. We have a lot of group work and a lot of team oriented type projects.”
Butler attributes part of his happiness in the major to his desire to work outdoors. Although, he likes being outside, his career goals don’t stop with working out in the elements. “I would like to be in the field at the beginning of my career because I have always wanted to work outside, but someday I would like to own a company of my own,” says Butler.
Before coming to Clemson, Butler fiddled with several career choices as a youth. One of the choices he recalls is chef. “I wanted to be a chef when I was growing up. My dad cooks and my mom cooks too. I always enjoyed going to the grocery store with them as a little kid.”
Today, Butler says he likes to cook, but doesn’t know if he has one signature dish that is the best tasting. “I don’t know what the best thing is that I cook, you really need to ask the people that are eating it. I cook things like lasagna and fried chicken. I know that sounds like simple stuff, but I just enjoy cooking.”
While growing up Butler really never showed an interest in sports until the eighth grade when his coach asked him to come out for the football team. Butler recalls, “The coach came up to me and asked if I wanted to play. I was indifferent, it did not matter to me one way or the other. I started playing and was not very good. I kept trying and got a little bit better as time progressed. I played tackle when I started in eighth grade and moved to guard in high school. In high school, my body started to fill out and I was in a lot better condition.”
As his body began to mature and his skills improved, Butler’s interest to college coaches grew. “When I was a sophomore one of the first letters I received was from Clemson. That was when I began to think I might have a chance to play college football. I didn’t really try to position myself to attain that, I just went out and had fun. I always tried hard and did my best. I never really thought about it that much, it never was a big thing for me. It wasn’t until the Shrine Bowl that things really got serious when it came to recruiting. I only went on one official visit and that was to Clemson.”
Butler admits before that day in eighth grade, he never really had any interest in sports. His mom watches the Braves, his older brother is an avid Washington Redskins fan and his older sister enjoys football. However, Butler’s father is the same way his youngest son is.
Butler tells, “I never really was a sports fan. I didn’t watch sports on TV. My brother always watched sports on television. He grew up a Redskins fan on the pro level and a North Carolina and Michigan fan on the college level. People would ask me who I pulled for and I would tell them that I liked the same teams as my brother. I didn’t really have a team. Then they would take it one step further and ask me, ‘who my favorite player on the team was?’ I didn’t know any of their names and I still don’t.
His interest in sports has grown a little since those days growing up near Charlotte, but not much. “I watch sports a lot more now than I did in the past , but still not that often. I think I’ve watched maybe one or two Super Bowls in my life. My mom actually watches more sports than I do.”
Despite his lack of interest in sports, Butler has a good understanding of the game when it comes to football and life in the trenches. Whether it’s mastering the leverage it takes to stop an opposing defensive lineman or the leverage it takes to hold up a bridge, Matt Butler defines the words “true student”.
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