In between first contact with Northwestern coaches during his freshman year of high school and the second semester of his junior year, JB Butler has taken four trips to Evanston. With each passing visit, his interest in the school grew stronger, and now, his stance on the Wildcats is pretty straightforward.
There has been no offer from Northwestern, or any of the other various power conference schools that have shown interest in Butler, but if the Wildcats were to extend him the recruiter’s equivalent of a deal-sealing hand shake, Butler knows what his response would be.
“I’d probably say yes,” the 6’3’’, 280-pound guard from Joliet, Ill., said when asked about a potential Northwestern scholarship offer. Butler has been in contact with head coach Pat Fitzgerald and offensive line coach Adam Cushing for two years. He attended a recruiting camp on campus last June, where, according to Butler, approximately 50 2013 and 2014 prospects worked out in front of coaches. Both Cushing and Fitzgerald commended his performance.
“I had a really good camp,” Butler said. “I got a lot of positive feedback from them.”
The biggest delay, in Butler’s mind, is the prospect that Northwestern may have bloated its offensive line ranks by signing three O-Line prospects (Sam Coverdale, Blake King and Brad North) last season. The Wildcats are well-stocked with offensive line talent, and not just in the 2013 class.
One year earlier, Northwestern pulled in four O-line prospects (Adam DePietro, Eric Olson, Ian Park, Kenton Plako). Butler acknowledged his concern with the possibility he may not see the field all too often in his first couple years on campus – “it just needs to be the right fit,” he says – but he was happy to reaffirm the assertion made earlier that a scholarship offer would likely be met by his approval.
“I’d love for Northwestern to offer me,” he says.
The earliest said offer would come, Cushing told Butler, is after spring practice, which closes with Northwestern's spring game on Saturday, April 13. Cushing has been open about Butler’s standing in Northwestern’s 2014 recruiting priorities. He has urged patience with Butler, telling him to wait things out while he meets with coaches and discusses personnel developments and roster construction. And Butler is more than willing to comply.
In the meantime, other schools are making their respective pitches, and Butler is surveying his options. Illinois, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Michigan State and Michigan are among the programs that have contacted Butler. He’s already visited Illinois four times, and sampled several other interested programs over the past couple years.
None seem to have captured Butler’s desires quite as strongly for the Wildcats, and Butler isn’t loath to explain why. Simply put, he wants to attend a school that offers him the best opportunity to play football at a high level and receive the best education possible. The tight-knit feel of Northwestern’s campus, combined with its proximity to nearby Chicago, ties together the qualities that make the Wildcats such an attractive all-around package for Butler.
“It’s small, you can walk through it and you wouldn’t get lost anywhere,” Butler said of Northwestern’s campus. “It’s just a good college campus feel.”
His interest is resolute. Butler feels comfortable about the idea of committing to the Wildcats, provided everything “lines up right” – that he doesn’t suddenly lose patience with Northwestern, that another school better suiting his ideal education-football profile doesn’t swoop in, and so on. Now all he needs is for Northwestern to present its side of the deal.