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Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2011

Butler finds his calling on defense

Perrysburg High School graduate Brandon Butler has found his place on defense at the University of Findlay. Butler has a team-leading 58 tackles this season. Perrysburg High School graduate Brandon Butler has found his place on defense at the University of Findlay. Butler has a team-leading 58 tackles this season.

Brandon Butler was a two-year starter on both offense and defense for the Perrysburg High School football team.

But his heart always has been on one side of the field: with the defense.

"I played linebacker and fullback in high school, but I've always been a defensive player," Butler said. "To me, it feels like you're going into battle and fighting along with your teammates.

"And I just love tackling people."

Butler has had plenty of chances to experience that feeling as a three-year starter on the University of Findlay football squad. This season Butler already ranks among the top tacklers in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with his team-leading 58 tackles and has had double-figure tackles in five of the Oilers' first six games.

The 5-11, 220-pound junior also has four tackles for loss and also has forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass.

But the best feeling, Butler said, is making a big hit.

"The best tackle is the one where [the offensive player] doesn't see it coming," he explained. "You come up and hit him so hard that he fumbles the ball -- and you knock him into the crowd."

A two-time All-Northern Lakes League performer while in high school with the Yellow Jackets, Butler said his top two college choices were GLIAC rivals Findlay and Ashland.

"I was talking to both Findlay and Ashland in high school," he said. "Findlay is close to home, and it felt like a good fit here."

Butler's impact on the Oilers' football team was immediate. By the middle of his first year on campus, he had worked his way onto the depth chart at linebacker. And when the starter was injured, he took over. He started six games and finished with 34 tackles, including eight in a game against Michigan Tech, as well as an interception.

"Any time you can get on the field and gain experience, that's a good thing," Butler said. "I started to develop a feel for the game and knowledge of the game."

But Butler said he felt he truly became a college player the following spring.

"During spring ball I felt I really matured as a player," he said. "It was all about gaining experience. I felt I was gaining the knowledge of the game it takes to be a success."

Last season Butler started at linebacker for all 11 of Findlay's games and finished second on the team with 83 stops, including five tackles for loss. His most productive games came against Lake Erie College, when he recorded a career-high 15 tackles, and against Tusculum, when he had 11.

This season Butler and the Oilers have rebounded from a tough start that included two losses, including a double-overtime setback in the league opener against Northern Michigan, to even their record at 3-3.

"I think we've been playing pretty well, even though we lost a couple of close games," Butler said. "I think a lot of people looked past us coming into this season.

"But there's all kinds of great competition in this league."

Butler has a double major of strength and conditioning along with physical education at Findlay.

"I've always been around sports," he said. "I hope to get into a [college] program where I can either work as a strength coach or become a [graduate assistant] and help out on the field."

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.

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