Butrym shows he belongs with UW football

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Jeff Potrykus
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
— As he prepared for his first season as Wisconsin’s head football coach, Bret Bielema had reservations about offering a scholarship to Patrick Butrym.

Butrym at the time was preparing for his last year at Catholic Memorial in Waukesha.

It was the summer of 2006 and Butrym carried about 230 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame.

In short, he was a little light in the trunk to play defensive tackle at UW.

“I didn’t know if Butrym was going to be big enough,” Bielema said. “We had him in camp and he was 225 or 230.”

Fortunately for Butrym, he was driven to UW’s camp by his older brother, Nick, who played basketball at Ripon College several years earlier.

At the time, Nick was considerably heavier than his little brother.

“He was like 280 pounds,” Bielema said. “I was psyched. And I hadn’t met his dad yet.”

The father was Craig Butrym, a 7-foot center on Marquette University’s 1977 national championship team.

Believing Patrick Butrym had the frame to put on enough weight to be a starting defensive tackle, Bielema extended a scholarship offer. Butrym quickly accepted the offer, a decision that has benefitted both sides.

Butrym, now a 290-pound fifth-year senior, is preparing for his second season as a full-time starter at tackle. He started all 13 games last season after starting two in 2009.

“From my freshman year until now I am pleased with my progress,” Butrym said. “But heading into my senior year there’s still some things I really want to improve and get to a (higher) level.”

Last season Butrym finished first among the defensive tackles and 11th on the team in total tackles with 28. His sack totals (2½) and tackles for loss (3½) were modest, however.

Butrym knows he must continue being a dependable player who uses his technique and smarts to be in the right gap.

However, with defensive end J.J. Watt (seven sacks, 21 tackles for loss) now in the National Football League, the defensive line needs someone to step up and help fill that void.

“I need to produce this year,” Butrym said. “Now that J.J. is gone somebody is going to have to pick that up.”

That could mean stuffing a tailback in the backfield on third down or getting to the quarterback late in the game to kill a drive.

“Those are the things I need to do,” Butrym said. “I need to think less and just play.”

Bielema has become fond of saying the staff is always on the lookout for “Wisconsin kids” on the recruiting trail.

In short, that means players who love the game, are coachable, won’t cause problems in the locker room and have the capacity to grow over time.

Butrym fits that description, literally and figuratively.

He reported to UW in the fall of 2007 at 245 pounds. He redshirted and was up to 264 pounds by the start of the 2008 season. He gradually kept gaining weight and learning the game, which led to increased playing time.

Trouble has never found Butrym away from the field.

“When I first came in—you liken it to moving into a new neighborhood—you keep your mouth shut,” he said. “That’s just being a freshman.

“I’ve definitely matured a lot physically, but also as a leader.”

Butrym is one of five defensive tackles who played in 2010. He is the lone senior of the group, the most consistent performer and a candidate to be named a captain.

“Patrick has turned into a great leader,” Bielema said. “He was a very quiet kid. And now …

“On the defensive side of the ball he has a tremendous amount of respect. And I know the O-linemen have a tremendous amount of respect for him.

“I would expect he would be one of those guys.”

Whether a captain or not, Butrym will continue to deliver a heartfelt message to his teammates.

“Obviously you want to win championships,” he said. “You come here to win games. But in order to win games you have to take care of so many little details. The great players are the ones that do every little thing right.

“You go to class. You show up on time for everything. If you prepare to win—we practiced so well as a team last year it was unbelievable. We got everything we could out of practice.

“Those kinds of details take you through games. There is a means to an end.”

Last updated: 6:05 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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