Matthew Butler, a three-star defensive lineman who racked up 26 sacks for Garner High this season, has committed to Tennessee over the likes of N.C. State and Duke.
Butler made his announcement in front of teammates, friends and family inside South Garner’s auditorium Wednesday. He opened up a present his mother gave him and pulled out a Tennessee hat.
Butler said he had face-to-face conversations with both Duke coach David Cutcliffe and N.C. State coach Dave Doeren before he made his announcement.
“It was pretty tough, because I’ve known those guys, those guys have recruited me and we’ve built more than just football relationships,” he said. “They’ve accepted me into part of their family. It was tough, but I feel like I made the right decision. So I’m at peace of heart.”
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Butler, a 6-4, 265-pound defensive end, was a force for Garner this season. Along with his 26 sacks, he had 96 tackles, 44 of them for a loss, according to MaxPreps.
He helped lead Garner to the third round of the NCHSAA playoffs before losing to Middle Creek. Butler also made the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and recorded one tackle for a loss.
He is the No. 11 rated recruit in the state, according 247sports.com, and ranked No. 17 overall at his position.
Garner coach Thurman Leach said Butler’s strength is his desire to improve.
“He’s a competitor,” Leach said. “Not finishing something right gets to him a little bit. He wants to do it the best he can.”
Prior to his announcement, Butler had narrowed his choices to Tennessee, Penn State, N.C. State, Duke, South Carolina and Texas A&M.
When he pulled the Tennessee hat out of the box and place it on his head, his friends cheered loudly and clapped.
“It was never just recruiting with them,” Butler said of Tennessee. “It was always, always introduction into what they had going on. And once I found out what they had going on, I said hey, this place has some similarities to Garner...And they were always real with me so I appreciate that.”