AMES — Hakeem Butler was a late bloomer in football.
Growing up, Butler always spent time working on his basketball game. He shot up to more than 6-feet in seventh grade and prided himself on his dunking and defense.
As he got into high school, he felt like something was missing. There wasn’t enough contact.
He dabbled in football as a freshman, but it never stuck. Finally as a junior, when he moved to Texas, he was drawn to the gridiron. After that, basketball felt soft.
“With basketball it’s so touchy, feely with ticky-tacky fouls and things like that,” Butler said. “I’m a very aggressive person naturally so I had to bring that every time attacking the ball and things like that.”
Butler had only one catch for 18 yards in his college debut against Northern Iowa, but it was one for the highlight reels. His one-handed catch on the edge of the end zone was only his third snap on the field, but gave a glimpse into Butler’s athleticism.
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“That was a huge play,” said quarterback Joel Lanning. “It gave us momentum for a little bit. He’s a good kid. He’s still growing, he’s still young. He’s only a redshirt freshman. He’s going to be good.”
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As a 6-foot-6, 210-pound second-year freshman, Butler is far from a polished product. You might not know what to expect from him in terms of production, but the threat is always there.
“He’s a freak show,” said running back Mike Warren. “He’s 6-6 and can run a little bit. He has good routes and is really long. He can go up there and get the ball. He has big hands and can make one-handed catches. He’s almost like a prototype receiver.”
While ISU junior receiver Allen Lazard and Iowa senior cornerback Desmond King will likely be the featured in the pass game, Butler could play an important role Saturday. He’ll have a size advantage against Iowa’s 6-foot-2, 200-pound Greg Mabin.
Lazard has been instrumental in getting Butler up to speed, too. Offseason interactions and a close relationship through fall camp have helped Butler develop more of Lazard’s habits. Blocking is just as important as pass-catching. It’s all about consistency.
Now that his debut is behind him, Butler is ready for more than just one highlight reel appearance.
“I think that was a big thing for me to just be consistent because I would have a good day then an all right day,” Butler said. “I’m just trying to make every day good and get better every day.”
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