Butler Day special for youngsters

Published 5:04 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Saturday was a special day for a large group of youngsters at Centennial Field.

They came to meet and receive some valuable lessons about football and life from Climax native, St. Louis Rams safety and former Bainbridge High School Bearcats football, basketball and track star James Butler Jr.

Joining Butler for his second annual youth clinic and camp hosted by his Dream Foundation, were high school coaches and former Bearcats who are now playing college football. The Dream Foundation is a non-profit initiative that offers programs focusing on mentoring, education and youth leadership.

Butler helped lead the New York Giants to a 17-14 victory over the previously undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., in 2008, and a portion of U.S. 84 East is named in Butler’s honor.

Former Bearcats helping with the clinic and camp were Georgia Bulldogs linebackers Darryl Gamble and Nick Williams, Fort Valley State defensive lineman Willie Cooper, Tuskeegee Institute defensive back Bruce James, the recently graduated Marshall University defensive back Phillip Gamble and University of South Alabama linebacker Ramadon Jimoh-Osi.

Local coaches assisting with the instruction were Kelvin Cochran, James’ dear friend and his football and basketball coach at BHS, Bearcats receivers coach Larry Cosby, Chip Ariail, Butler’s former football coach at Hutto Middle School, and Larry Clark, highly successful Bearcats track and football coach who led the Bearcats to many Region track championships through the years.

During the clinic portion of James Butler Day, the former Bearcat talked to the youngsters about the importance of doing well in school and working hard in the classroom and on the field.

James Butler Jr. is an outstanding athlete, but if that is all you know about him, you are missing a lot. He is one of the nicest, most caring people I have ever met in my 39 years of The Post-Searchlight sports coverage. He comes back every summer to hold his clinic and camp because he sincerely cares about youngsters and their welfare.

The son of the Rev. James Butler Sr. and Nadine Butler of Climax, his clinic and camp are just one function of his Dream Foundation. Last Thanksgiving he sent money for meals for needy Decatur County families.

My good friend, Jimmy Harris, head master at Robert F. Munroe School, who coached Butler at Hutto Middle School, best summed up what kind of person he is recently.

“The fact that James Butler was a phenomenal athlete was simply icing on the cake,” Harris said. “He would be a success if he never touched a football or basketball, or set foot on a track.

“His parents raised him to be humble, reverent and a person who cares for others. He was an outstanding student and citizen and he was never ashamed to hold up that mantle.”

An All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) defensive back with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, James consistently made the dean’s list during his college years. BHS Principal Tommie Howell once called him the definition of a student-athlete.

Thanks James for all you do to make life better for so many.