AMES — Iowa State wide receiver Hakeem Butler was playing Call of Duty on Sunday after Iowa State’s win over Kansas when he got a text from teammate Kyle Kempt.
Kempt told Butler to turn on the TV. Butler promptly replied he was in the middle of a video game.
So, Kempt recorded what he was seeing on his TV screen and texted it to Butler.
The video was Randy Moss doing his popular weekly “You got Mossed” segment on ESPN. He led it off with Butler’s catch over Kansas’ Hassan Defense.
“He sent me the video and it was Randy Moss and that was so surprising to me because I grew up loving Randy Moss,” Butler said. “I had an 84 jersey when he was with the Vikings and he was always my favorite player. I always wanted to be like him.”
It’s unfair to expect Butler to make a ridiculous play every week, but at the same time it’s almost surprising when he doesn’t. Iowa State (5-3, 4-2 Big 12) hosts Baylor (5-4, 3-3) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (FS1), which will be Butler’s next opportunity to make jaws drop.
Butler leads the nation with 24 yards per reception and he has nine of the 11 longest plays from an Iowa State player this season, including the longest — an 83-yard touchdown against Kansas. He also has eight touchdowns, just for good measure.
All of that gets more amazing when you remember the 6-foot-6 Butler has only played organized football for five years.
Butler grew up in Baltimore, where he played football with the other neighborhood kids, so he wasn’t completely new to the sport. Even back then, he said he’d “Moss” the other kids.
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He was a Ravens fan, but he always followed Moss. Butler wears No. 18 now, which was Moss’ number when he played for the Oakland Raiders.
He also wears 18 because he likes to say he’s two times better than he was in high school, when he wore No. 9.
Butler was a 1-star recruit out of high school, and he admitted he was very raw, so it might be fair to say he’s more than two times better.
“Hakeem has always been an extremely athletic and gifted athlete,” ISU Coach Matt Campbell said. “Even last year, as talented as our receiving corps was, and I think he was bar none, one of the most talented guys that I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach at the wide receiver position. Where his growth has been phenomenal —— even over the last nine months — is just in terms of what it takes to be an elite level football player. Hakeem has always had a high ‘want to.’”
Campbell’s challenge to Butler isn’t just to make the spectacular play that’ll land him on SportsCenter or on “You got Mossed” but to be a consistently good football player who can make the ordinary play all the time.
“Even when you talk from the start of the season to where we’re at today, I think (his consistency) has certainly grown,” Campbell said. “That’s something we’ll be able to talk about at the end of this season and ask, ‘Man, did you become the best player you can on every rep by the end of the season?’ But I think he’s certainly growing closer to that even during the season.”
What’s scary — especially for opposing defenses — is Campbell believes there is another level or two to Butler’s game.
“I think you’ll only see him get better because he does have that passion to be really, really special,” Campbell said. “I haven’t seen him settle and say, ‘You know, I’m really good.’ He’s continued to grind away at it. I do appreciate that about him.”
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Butler’s favorite Randy Moss moment was on Thanksgiving of 1998 when the Vikings played the Dallas Cowboys. Moss had three catches, three touchdowns and 163 yards.
“That’s crazy to me every time I see the picture,” Butler said.
Butler came close to that type of game last week against Kansas when he had two catches, two touchdowns for 154 yards in the first five minutes of the game. Butler finished the game with five receptions, 164 yards and two touchdowns.
Butler is a far cry from Iowa State being his only Power-5 offer. But in another three years, he could be a far cry from where he is right now.
“His work ethic, his consistency — I thought his offseason was maybe as good as anybody in our football program over the last six, seven or eight months,” Campbell said. “It was really fun to watch that. He’s really done it throughout the first three years since I’ve been here. He’s gotten better every year.
“He’s put himself in a great position to be a phenomenal football player.”
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