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‘Mature beyond his years’: UCA’s Myles Butler primed for breakout

by Sam Lane | August 10, 2023 at 2:21 a.m.
Central Arkansas sophomore wide receiver Myles Butler struggled at times last season. He said he did some soul-searching during the offseason. “I just had to sit down with myself,” he said. “I had to talk to myself in the mirror.” (University of Central Arkansas Athletics)

CONWAY -- Myles Butler took a long hard look in the mirror this offseason.

Coming off of a 442-yard, three-touchdown redshirt freshman season for the University of Central Arkansas, the wide receiver said he felt he wasn't living up to expectations -- most of all his own.

Butler had his bright spots last season, like his 117 yards and one touchdown against North Alabama or his career-high 120 yards against Jacksonville State, both earning him ASUN Freshman of the Week honors.

He also went catch-less in two games and had just one catch in three other games.

Butler's battle with consistency last season wasn't as simple as a young player dealing with his first taste of playing time. It was also a battle back from a broken left radius -- an injury he had also suffered in high school and that upon breaking in fall camp his freshman year, limited him to one game and two catches.

Both took their toll as Butler looked to find his footing in the Bears' crowded wide receiver room.

"Throughout last year, it was a lot of ups and downs for me because I was battling myself mentally," Butler said. "I had the game physically, but I didn't really have the game mentally. I feel like I was competing with myself a lot of times. I wasn't competing with the opponent. The opponent wasn't the problem -- it was me and my mind."

"This offseason, I focused on training my mind, building my confidence, having confidence in myself and being able to do things that I can do because I know I can do it. I just have to believe in myself."

One key way Butler found to work on the mental side of his game was to explore his faith -- something he admittedly hadn't done before.

"I had to be real with myself," Butler said. "I was lying to myself a lot. So I had to [look] in the mirror and I just asked myself, 'Are you really close to God? Are you really doing the stuff that you say you want to do? Are you really doing it?' And I just had to sit down with myself. I had to talk to myself in the mirror."

Discovering prayer and meditation were the first steps for Butler as he looked to begin preparation for his sophomore season. With the mental side taken care of, his work ethic took over the physical.

UCA Coach Nathan Brown describes Butler's work ethic as "second to none." He isn't the biggest, fastest or strongest member of the Bears, but Butler has something Brown said he would take in every player he brings to his program.

For Butler, it's all he's ever known.

"That's just where I come from," Butler said. "I saw my mom, she was working 16, 17 hours a day, up at 4 o'clock in the morning, going to work. I [didn't] see my momma 'til 9, 10 o'clock at night when she got off. I feel my work ethic comes from her. I've seen her work day in and day out, never made an excuse and so when I got here, it was the same thing. There was no excuse for me not to go to work."

That work ethic isn't reserved for time during practice. It also means extra time spent lifting weights with strength and conditioning coach Alex Fotioo and early morning and late night practice sessions.

"He's mature beyond his years," Brown said. "He's a young man who spends nearly every morning up here at 7 a.m., working by himself or with a couple of teammates. Very engaged in the process. And you hope you get that when you recruit young men, but you just never know.

"But that's the growth you look for, that's being the holistic football player, in my opinion. We've got a lot of guys who can run fast, can make big catches, are big and strong in the weight room. But what are you doing outside of the football field? Are you being a good teammate? Are you being someone that wants to see your team grow? And that's what championships are made of, a bunch of unselfish dudes that want to see their teammates do well, too.

"Yeah, you're wanting to get better and you don't want to lose your spot. Myles doesn't want to lose his [starting] spot, but he's helping his guys behind him. He's confident enough in his ability that he doesn't have to worry about that."

Butler has garnered a reputation from coaches and teammates as a leader for the Bears despite his age.

Wednesday's practice, for example, began with Butler helping the younger wide receivers with drill techniques. As practice shifted to 7-on-7 work, he was chirping at defenders from the sideline.

"Ever since he got here, I felt like he was a coach," senior wide receiver Christian Richmond said. "He always had that confidence about him. He always knew what he was doing. And he just had the energy to where you would want to come up to him and ask him things."

Butler said he has personal goals this season: become an All-American and reach 1,000 receiving yards. But his ultimate goal is each of his teammates' fingers having two rings -- one for a conference championship and another for a FCS national championship.

"I want to bring my brothers with me. The reason why I am so vocal is because all this knowledge, I can't just hold it in," Butler said. "We [are] all going to eat. At the end of the day, it's a team thing. It's not just about me, it's a team thing. The information that I have, the things that I learned, I'm going to give them. And the things [my teammates] learn, they're going to give me and I'm going to listen."

Butler capped off the 2022 season with his strongest outing yet. With an offseason of self-reflection and extra reps, it's easy to see why many in Conway believe he is ready to take the next step.

"What he did at the end of the year last year, I expect that to start fast and start often this year," Brown said. "[I] think his upside is as high as anyone we've had here over the last couple of years."

Print Headline: UCA WR takes look in mirror


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