He’s got the speed. You knew that when he ran 4.48 at the combine. He’s got the size. You know that by looking at his 6-5, 230-pound frame. He’s got the ability. You saw that when he had over 1,300 yards, nine TDs and a BCS-leading 22.0 yards-per-catch average two years ago for Iowa State.
The only thing missing is a chance.
And for Hakeem Butler, it may finally come Sunday.
“I’m in my second year in the league and I haven't played a game yet so, more than anything, I'm just ready to get on the field,” Butler said Friday. “I need my catch. I need my first catch. I need my first touchdown.”
The Eagles go into San Francisco Sunday night down at least three wide receivers and one tight end, and Butler happens to play both those positions.
The Cards drafted him in the fourth round as a wide receiver, the Eagles signed him earlier this week as a tight end, and it doesn’t matter what you call him or where he lines up, if he can get open and catch the football, he can help this team.
“There's a lot of people that have been productive in the hybrid position,” Butler said. “I feel I can be productive either-or but … I've seen guys like Darren Waller and you know a bunch of guys that just make that transition and do work on the inside on the safeties and linebackers, so I'm ready to do that same thing, take that next step.”
Butler said he was initially resistant when NFL teams at the combine brought up the subject of moving him to tight end.
“I kind of didn't want to do it back then, just ego and whatnot,” he said. “Just belief in myself.”
But getting cut a year after you were drafted and finding yourself on a practice squad can be pretty humbling.
Now Butler just wants to play.
“I know I can play in this league,” he said “And so, opportunity, wherever it may present itself, outside, inside, hand in the dirt, I mean I'll take advantage of whatever comes. … I'm ready to play, wherever that may be. I'll do whatever is asked of me, really.”
Butler missed all last year with a broken hand and was a surprise cut when the Cards trimmed their roster down to 53 before the season. He spent a few weeks on the Panthers’ practice squad before the Eagles signed him to the 53.
“When it comes to Arizona, that's the past,” he said. “And I'm very thankful for them drafting me and calling my name and giving me this chance to even chase my dream and get into the NFL. So they got me here. It didn't work out, Whatever happened. But I'm thankful for all the guys there. I still got love for Arizona and coach Kliff [Kingsbury] and everybody there and I wish nothing but the best. But I'm an Eagle now and that's kind of what I'm focused on.”
If Butler plays Sunday, he’ll become the fifth offensive skill player to make his NFL debut for the Eagles this year. That number would increase to six if Quez Watkins plays.
DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Jalen Reagor and Dallas Goedert are all out for Sunday and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is questionable.
The Eagles need weapons. Who knows whether Butler can help, but he’s got the pedigree and he’s healthy, and those things alone should be enough to give him the chance he's been waiting for.