Butler has grown into a major force for Fords
By TED SILARY
Blaise Butler so often has heard the comparison, he's starting to wonder if his birth certificate really reads Another Will Barker.
The similarities begin with his hair, which is so red it's pretty much orange. And they extend to the rest of his body. At least they do now.
Butler, a 6-7, 240-pound senior, stars for Haverford School's football team as a tackle and defensive end. Barker boasted the same height (though listed at 280) while excelling for the Fords in 2004 and earning first-team Daily News All-City honors. Now, as a 6-7, 305-pound redshirt sophomore, he's in his second season of starting for the University of Virginia.
Butler was a Ford freshman in '04. Just don't make the assumption that he worshipped the artificial surface Barker walked on.
Reason? He was all of 5-10, 130 pounds.
"I was a quarterback then," Butler said, smiling. "In fact, I've played every position on the field."
Yesterday, in a rare Sunday outing for an Inter-Ac League team, Haverford hosted Pius X, of upstate Roseto, Pa., in a non-league contest. The Fords triumphed, 19-0, and Butler made waves on both sides of the ball.
His blocking helped to assure the accumulation of 422 yards and his defensive work included a sack and two other tackles for loss.
As for Mass . . . "My parents let me miss it this morning," he said.
Butler has played basketball (and hopes to do so again this winter) and is a defender for the Fords' lacrosse program, but football is now his priority and he noted in upbeat fashion, "I see it as my ticket to college. Probably as a tight end or D-end."
Temple, Villanova, Maine, Massachusetts and the Ivy schools have expressed interest and, once the word starts to spread on this kid's mobility and body history, he might have to force pursuers to take a number.
Butler was a quarterback through his freshman season, then became a receiver. This is his second year as a grunt. "I was a little disappointed when I started to grow because quarterback was really what I wanted to play," he said. "I didn't want to say anything [in protest of the position shift]. I viewed myself as a team player. And things are definitely working out.
"It's funny. As a freshman I used to watch the seniors and wonder if I'd ever grow as big as half of them, let alone Will Barker. Now here I am, getting that [Will Barker talk] a lot."
So, how'd this happen? Nine inches and 110 pounds in 3 years!
"I remember my mother telling me one morning that she thought I grew 5 inches overnight," Butler said. "It just seemed like it never stopped. I don't know where it comes from. Maybe the Irish thing. Late maturity."
Butler's path-clearing helped quarterback Dan Judge (13-111), halfback Terance FitzSimmons (13-98) and fullback Wyatt Benson all run for scores while Judge added 71 more yards on 4-for-9 passing. His linemates were center Shomari Watts, guards Andrew Hubley and Joe Dougherty and tackle Stephen Aitken.
Late in the first half, with the score at 7-0, linebackers Craig Owen (downfield dash for a TD-saving tackle) and Anthony Martino (fourth-down stop on a keeper) made key defensive plays. By providing right-to-the-sideline pressure, Butler was able to force an ill-advised, third-quarter popup that was picked off by Chris Ambrogi.
There was some late-game tension after a backup Haverford player crunched a Pius receiver on an overthrown pass and drew a personal foul. The Royals' coaches had often complained about the calls and when the game ended, one of them raged at the refs, "I saw you shaking all their hands [referring to HS' coaches] before the game. Where you going to dinner?"
Butler recalled that the officiating had been considered one-sided - the other way, of course - when the Fords fell last year at Pius, 49-19. Funny how that works.
"We felt like we had to come out here and get revenge," he said. "We were a little flat early - maybe because of the Sunday thing game - and then we got it going."
A B-level student who not long ago moved from Upper Darby to Ardmore, Butler is excited about what this season could bring. Especially since his health is back to 100 percent.
"In lacrosse sophomore year, I had a high hamstring pull on my right leg," he said. "Then I tore it early last football season. I somehow played through it, but it still affected me. I'm looking forward to trying to get back into basketball this winter."
Who knows? Maybe he'll keep growing. Someone has to be the next Shaquille O'Neal. Or Will Barker. *