FORT BRANCH — Ben Butler used to envision his name in the video game NCAA Football.
The popular game featuring college football programs across the country is no longer produced, so the soon-to-be Gibson Southern grad will have to settle for the next best thing — seeing his name on a college roster.
Butler recently made his pledge to continue his academic and football playing career at the University of St. Francis.
“Ever since playing flag football I have wanted to play in college,” Butler said. “Back in the day I wanted to see my name on an NCAA game, but they don’t make those anymore ... I am just excited to be able to continue playing the game I love.”
But football was not his first love.
Butler used to race dirtbikes when he was younger but realized a different path may be best for his education beyond high school.
“I raced dirtbikes until around sixth grade,” he explained. “I knew I wouldn’t be able to get my college paid for by racing so I started to focus more on football.”
Over his career in a Gibson Southern uniform, Butler accounted for nearly 3,600 total yards and 35 touchdowns. He was used as a slot receiver and came out of the Titans’ backfield in addition to being a top defender in the secondary.
At USF, Butler will focus on only the offensive side of the ball as a receiver.
“They are getting a really good one,” Gibson Southern head coach Nick Hart said. “He had a great career for us and worked really hard to become the player he is now. He is just an exceptional athlete who is explosive and is a difference marker. I fully expect him to transition well at the college level because he has such a great work ethic.”
Butler is excited to see how well he can perform at USF with focusing on just one side of the ball instead of playing nearly every snap.
“Just being able to dedicate all my time to one side of the ball I think will be a big help,” he stated. “But really, I am just excited to be in this position and I will play wherever they want me to play.”
St. Francis was not Butler’s first choice. After receiving a preferred walk-on offer from Division I Western Illinois University in addition to being in talks with Indiana Wesleyan and Hanover College, Butler was left with a difficult decision.
“St. Francis was my last visit and really I had it narrowed down to either Indiana Wesleyan or Hanover,” Butler admitted. “But after going on my visit, I just felt more comfortable with deciding on St. Francis.
“They have a similar offense as we ran here and I have a good buddy (Luke Conner of Boonville) who goes there. Going on that visit really just changed everything.”
Reflecting on his four years in a Titans’ uniform, Butler mentioned he will never forget a lot of memories made.
“Really just the brotherhood we formed with the coaches and all the players,” Butler said. “And we had the best support from the community. We knew even if it rained, snowed, was really cold or whatever, that we would still have a huge crowd on Friday nights.”
Butler plans on pursuing a nursing degree during his time at St. Francis.