FOOTBALL

Myles Butler's senior year growth has Montgomery Catholic on verge of Super 7

Nick Alvarez
Montgomery Advertiser

Myles Butler walked onto Montgomery Catholic's practice field to test himself.

It was after school on Nov. 7, and Butler and his uncle, Nelson Shields, brought an automated Jugs football passer onto the grass at around 5 p.m. For two hours, Butler caught passes, monitoring the pain in his left forearm. 

Two weeks prior, he underwent surgery for a broken wrist. Doctors said he'd likely miss two weeks, including the Knights' first playoff game. Yet, just more than 24 hours before the Alabama High School Athletic Association postseason's opening round, there Butler was, convincing himself he was ready. 

If the injury occurred a year ago, Butler probably wouldn't have returned a week early, he said. That was before a growth spurt and months of lockdown unearthed an opportunity. This season, Butler saw a chance to raise his stock as a Division I recruit and guide a revamped Knights offense that featured him in a starring role. 

The wide receiver dedicated himself, and Montgomery Catholic (11-2) has reaped the benefits, reaching the Class 3A semifinals with Butler at the crux of its most important position group. Montgomery Catholic's offense returned no starting offensive lineman from a year ago and is currently starting a freshman quarterback. Butler's one of three skill-position players with 1,000-plus yards, totaling 12 touchdowns in 55 catches.  

Catholic wide receiver Myles Butler (14) celebrates a long touchdown against Pike Road during the AHSAA Kickoff Classic at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday evening August 20, 2020.

A season-long quest faces its biggest hurdle Friday. The Knights travel to Montgomery Academy (13-0) and a defense that allows 9.5 points per game. Butler's big-play potential could determine who makes the trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium next week. Butler has welcomed the challenge. 

"I always question myself," Butler said, "'Myles, do you want to be great? Do you want it as bad as I say I do?' .. That pushes me."

The Knights are 23 points away from setting a program single-season record (446). Last season, a triple-option offense led Catholic to 12 wins, but Butler wasn't featured. 

He was 6-foot, 176-pounds then and caught 35 passes for 599 yards and six touchdowns. Butler said he was content with being an "average" player. But against Handley in the second round of the postseason, Butler dropped a touchdown in a three-point win. 

Butler still hasn't shaken off that disappointment, so he carved out a portion of his Sundays to catch 100 balls. Then he sprouted three inches and gained 13 pounds of muscle. He spent hours outside training on his own or having socially-distanced practices with teammates when possible. 

Catholic's Myles Butler jumps high for a pass in the endzone.

During the preseason, Montgomery Catholic coach Aubrey Blackwell noticed Butler was more vocal. He'd explain play concepts to underclassmen and lead drills. Between the hashes, Butler started high-pointing the ball and out-running safeties. Butler always good ball skills, Blackwell said, and a larger frame only helped. 

The Knights had a 6-2 record heading into an Oct. 16 matchup against Trinity. They stormed through Region 4, with Butler and DJ Carter leading a passing offense with quarterback Caleb McCreary. During the contest, Butler ran a post route and his left wrist collided with Carter's helmet on a jump ball. Butler's radius – the two largest bones in the forearm – shattered. One day after his surgery, Butler attended his first physical therapy session. 

He stretched his fingers repeatedly to work through nerve blockage. Butler then added wrist stretches into the routine. He went to therapy five days a week before practice and currently gets treatment thrice a week. 

During a team meeting, Butler talked about his wrist and how he knew he couldn't miss the Knights' playoff opener against Bayside. "I wasn't wasting any time," he said. At the start of the Nov. 6 game, Butler dropped his first two targets. In the stands, Shields saw his nervous nephew and moved closer to the team bench.  

Shields told Butler to take the extra padding off his forearms and to trust himself. "You don't need that," Shields said. Butler acquiesced and finished the game with three catches for 103 yards and three touchdowns. 

"(When) God gives you mostly everything you need to be a DI athlete," Butler said, "I'm gonna start working for it."