FRISCO, Texas – Here’s a crash course about life in the NFL, courtesy of Dejaun Butler.
Does that name not sound familiar? It honestly shouldn’t. Butler’s name wasn’t even on the pregame roster Saturday night at AT&T Stadium. His jersey, No. 37, was filled by Ronnie Hillman up until a week ago.
And when Butler made four tackles in the second half of the Cowboys’ 24-19 win against the Colts, he had participated in a grand total of two practices – having signed with the team just four days prior.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Butler said on Monday.
That seems like an understatement coming from an unheralded rookie. Having finished his college career at Hawaii, Butler worked out for the New Orleans Saints after going undrafted in the spring. The Saints eventually signed him, but not until late July – days before the start of training camp.
“I was out with the New Orleans Saints for most of the preseason. I was there for three weeks, and after the first preseason game I was released,” he said.
Butler returned home, which happened to be Los Angeles. Within days, he was making the short drive to Oxnard to work out for the Cowboys, who have been decimated at cornerback by hamstring injuries.
“I was home for about three days and my agent gave me a call and said the Cowboys wanted to work me out,” he said. “I went out, killed the workout and was with the Cowboys that day.”
The Cowboys signed Butler on Tuesday. He practiced on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, and then he was Dallas-bound to stay in the team hotel at The Star and prepare to play in a game.
“It’s been a lot going on,” he said. “To get released from the Saints and kind of feel like it could be the end of the road – what’s going on, you’re a rookie, there’s guys trying out that have experience and things like that. It’s just baby steps and staying prepared.”
If Butler wasn’t prepared for what came next, he certainly didn’t show it. Having spent some extra time on the playbook with cornerbacks coach Joe Baker, he entered the game in the second half and handled himself well – even if he was learning on the go.
“Everyone was very helpful in the secondary,” Butler said. “They were kind of just giving me the call – man or Cover 3 or Cover 2. Just keeping it simple. They were just telling me my responsibility for the play, but other than that it was just me and athletic ability.”
He finished with four tackles, and he nearly had an interception on the Colts’ final play of the game.
“Of course Coach Baker is going to grade us hard. He wants us to come down with those big plays and things like that,” Butler said. “But I’m happy I’m in position, just being here for two practices.”
It’s a cool story, and it plays out across the NFL on a daily basis. But that’s not going to earn Butler any extra job security. There are six practices and two preseason games before the Cowboys cut their roster, so as good a job as he’s done to this point, Butler’s work is only just beginning.
“Like I said, it’s surreal,” he said. “Everything is moving pretty fast. But I know this is a business, I know how it works. You’ve just got to be prepared at all times.”