Back in November 2003, during my first stint covering high schools for the Sun-Sentinel, I wrote a story on a skinny, but skilled, 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior quarterback/safety starring for a small Broward County school.
Thursday night, his No. 2 high school jersey will be retired.
Darius Butler will become the first Coral Springs Charter athlete to be honored in such a manner. The ceremony, which the mayor of Coral Springs and city councilmen are scheduled to attend, will be held at halftime of Charter’s game against Miami Archbishop Curley at Coral Glades High.
Butler, now playing for the Indianapolis Colts, will receive a framed jersey, and a replica will be displayed at the school.
“It’s kind of a big deal,” said Charter athletic director Mike Higgins, who was Charter’s coach when Butler played.
Butler, a cousin of former UM running back Willis McGahee and NFL defensive lineman Geno Atkins, is undoubtedly the biggest-name athlete that Charter can claim as an alumnus. He was a four-year starter and two-year captain at Connecticut, where he played cornerback and receiver and returned kickoffs.
He was twice named Big East Player of the Week as a freshman. His highlights included three interceptions for 122 return yards and a touchdown against Army, and a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against South Florida. He was selected to the All-Big East First Team as a senior, and finished his career with 180 tackles, 10 interceptions and two touchdowns. He scored three other touchdowns on a kick return, a carry and a reception.
Butler flashed his athleticism at Charter, where he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and passed for more than 1,000 as a senior and also scored more than 1,000 career points for the basketball team.
“He’s just had a tremendous impact on this school – not just Darius, but the whole family,” Higgins said, pointing out that Butler’s three brothers and two sisters also have attended Charter. “Darius was the first real Division I athlete to come through [the school] and show if you stick with it and believe in what you’re doing, good things are going to happen.”
Added Higgins: “His loyalty to our school, not only prior, but since then…he’s just given back in so many ways – financially and giving his time to the program. We felt it was the right thing to do [to retire his jersey].”
All three of Butler’s younger brothers – Michael, Stormy and Denzel -- have also played football for Charter. Denzel, a senior defensive back, has played a key role for the team this season.
Darius Butler, though, is the one that first brought attention to Coral Springs Charter athletics. And he hasn’t stopped giving to his alma mater, Higgins said.
“Last year, we needed headsets [for the coaches], and he was there. There’s never been a year since he was out of the school where he hasn’t done something for us,” Higgins said. “When there’s been a need, he’s always been, ‘What can I do for you?’”