INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — During his NFL combine interview on Friday, Iowa State wide receiver Hakeem Butler was asked about his workouts with Calvin Johnson.
You might better know Calvin Johnson as “Megatron,” the former Detroit Lions wide receiver who was a head taller and step faster than the entire NFL during the 2000s. He caught 83 TD passes in his eight-year career.
When Megatron was invoked, the pool of reporters became very, very interested. Butler picked up on this and sort of laughed about it.
He totally agreed.
“It was a surreal experience,” Butler said. “Calvin Johnson, I had to keep my cool at first, you want to fan girl a little bit. Someone I watched growing up. I kept my cool. I don’t think he knows every word he gives to me, I’m hanging on it. It means a great deal to me. I hang on every word.”
Let’s not hang the “next Megatron” on Butler. That doesn’t mean he’s not a totally interesting prospect. Butler measured 6-5, 227 pounds and put up a 4.48-second 40-yard dash to go along with 18 reps of 225 pounds.
There’s more Megatron-ness for Butler. His wingspan of 83 7/8 inches is the widest in combine history for the wide receiver position. In this class of wide receivers, Butler has the longest arms (35 1/4 inches) and the second-biggest hands (10 3/4 inches).
Pair this with a mega-productive junior year at Iowa State, where Butler finishing among the nation’s top 10 in receiving yards (1,318) and lead the Cyclones with 60 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns, and you can see the first-round possibility come into focus. His 22.0 yards per catch was third in the nation last season.
Butler’s Saturday at the combine might be enough to elevate him into the first round.
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“Can he drop his weight and can he get in and out of the break smoothly?” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “That’s going to be kind of his question mark, and we’ll see what his top-end speed is. He’s one of those guys, it’s tricky because he really gains ground with that long stride. He might end up being faster than a lot of people expect.
“I don’t have him in that first-round range, but I think he’s somebody that — again, he answers some of those questions at the combine with his ability to get in and out, he can move up a little bit.”
A reporter asked Butler what his goal was in the 40.
Reporter: Do you have a goal? in the 40?
Butler: “What you want me to run?”
Reporter: “Do your best.”
Butler: “OK, thank you, I really appreciate that.”
Butler was all personality during his interview.
He lost his mother to cancer early in his life and then moved from Baltimore, Md., to Houston, Texas, to live with his cousins, who happened to be a couple of top basketball recruits for Kentucky, twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison.
“Baltimore, everyone knows it’s a rough place, but it’s a city that taught me a lot,” Butler said. “You’ve gotta be a dawg. You can’t take any days off. You’ve gotta go out there and eat and it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Every day I take that with me.
“Everybody here kind of knows my story, what I’ve been through. Moving to Houston was maybe the greatest thing that every happened in my lifetime. I wouldn’t be here talking today if I never moved to Houston. Everyone knows how Texas football is how they treat it.”
Family helped Butler with his mom’s death.
“My mom had 11 brothers and sisters, so I have a lot of aunts and uncles to lean on, and a crazy amount of cousins, and my younger brother, my partner in crime, my best friend, I love him to death,” Butler said. “And I have an older sister who constantly looks out for me. With those two, I can get through anything.”
Going into the 2018 season, Butler told ISU coach Matt Campbell that his goal was to do well enough to be able to skip his senior year.
“I feel I came every day with that on my mind,” Butler said. “I think I showed that and now I’m here.”
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Megatron kept coming up. One reporter even asked how Calvin Johnson looked and if he could still play. Butler laughed and said, “He could come play right now. First overall pick in this year’s draft. Maybe second after me.”
Best piece of advice Johnson passed on?
“That the man across from you is trying to take your head off so you have to take his head off first,” Butler said.
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