MARTIN, Tenn. – Jeremy Butler and Ben Johnson, who shared the University of Tennessee at Martin’s 2014 Bob Carroll Male Athlete of the Year award, are waiting in anticipation for a chance to extend their playing careers on the gridiron.
The former Skyhawk duo – who exhausted their eligibility this past fall – will be paying attention to this year’s NFL Draft, which starts on Thursday, May 8 and runs through Saturday, May 10. If they aren’t selected in the seven-round draft, they are both expected to receive a rookie free agent contract to participate in an NFL training mini-camp.
“I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback from scouts on both Jeremy and Ben,” Skyhawk head coach Jason Simpson said. “We had representatives from 10 NFL teams on campus for our Pro Day on March 18 and that’s the most we’ve ever had in my eight years here. I’d be very shocked if they don’t find themselves in an NFL mini-camp by the time rookie free agency rolls around after the draft.”
Butler, who was named a 2013 All-American by five different media outlets, ran a 4.56 time in the 40-yard dash at UT Martin’s Pro Day and has muscled up to 218 pounds, 13 pounds higher than his listed playing weight in the fall. The Green Bay Packers have showed the most interest in Butler, who was flown out to Green Bay for a day trip last month. The sure-handed 6-3 wideout from Bradenton, Fla. is just the second player in UT Martin history to haul in double-digit touchdown catches in back-to-back years (20 touchdowns in 22 career games).
Johnson has received the most feedback from the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens. The svelte linebacker weighed in at 238 pounds and boasted a time of 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Skyhawk Pro Day. The 6-2 Primm Springs, Tenn. native earned All-American accolades last season after leading the Ohio Valley Conference in tackles for the second consecutive season (131 stops in 2013, 102 tackles in 2012) as the heart and soul of the Skyhawk defense.
The NFL interest in Butler and Johnson comes after UT Martin produced three professionals in 2013. Montori Hughes became the first Skyhawk to be selected in the NFL Draft since 1996 when the Indianapolis Colts selected him in the fifth round (139th overall) last season. Quentin Sims signed a rookie free agent deal with the Atlanta Falcons and spent most of the 2013 preseason with the New England Patriots while Derek Carr took part in a mini-camp tryout with the New York Giants.