Liberty High School football coach Larry Luthe said McClain Butler has a talent that can’t be coached.
It’s his natural instinct to get to the ball, no matter what.
Butler, a recent graduate, was a standout linebacker for the Lions’ football program as well as an exceptional wrestler. His athleticism was “second to none,” Luthe said, and Butler was able to use it to his advantage en route to being chosen as the Carroll County Times Male Athlete of the Year.
“I have always, always put the team before myself,” Butler said. “No matter what I do. Going into my senior year, all the freshmen, sophomores, juniors looked up to everything I did. I always had to lead by example and never skip a rep, a down, or go easy, anything like that.”
Butler helped lead Liberty to a 8-4 record and a fourth straight playoff appearance. He finished his senior season with 147.5 tackles, good for 407.5 for his career.
The Lions dropped their first two games of the 2019 season against Linganore and Walkersville, then won five straight before falling to Westminster in overtime. They defeated Oakland Mills and Glenelg in the Class 2A West playoffs and reached the state quarterfinals.
Butler, who was pulled up to varsity halfway through his freshman year, made an steady impact. He led the county in tackles as a sophomore, junior, and senior, and was a five-time Times first-team all-countian on offense and defense.
“He’s just been steady,” Luthe said. “He’s a great football player, a high character kid. He really grew as a leader throughout his four years there. He’s got a passion for the game and a love for the game and he shared that with the younger kids. He’s a great student who works hard in the classroom and on the field.
“He’s what we want our football players at Liberty to be like — he was a model football player.”
Butler also crafted a successful resume on the wrestling mat.
He concluded his senior campaign with a 43-4 record, good for the most single-season wins in Liberty history. He finished second at the 2A-1A West tournament and at the 2A-1A state tourney as well en route to earning Times first-team all-county honors.
His 135 career wins is the most in Liberty history as well, along with his 81 career pins and 30 in a single season. He led the county in pins as a junior and senior and was undefeated at home through the entirety of his wrestling career.
“Junior year, we had Coach [Jeff] Kent, and he really shaped me into the wrestling mentality, if that makes sense,” Butler said. “He really taught me how to be a leader, so each year was a huge step of learning about the sport in general and life lessons. We had Coach [Shawn] Girch my senior year and he really pushed me to be the best I could be.
“If it weren’t for him, I never would have made it to the state finals. It was really cool to have him and a variety of coaches throughout my whole career.”
Butler said he didn’t believe his coach when Girch told him he was going to make it to the state finals last winter. Butler worked hard to prepare, but said he slammed his pinky in a car door about a week before states.
“My first match at states, it’s kind of gruesome, but I landed on my pinky and then kind of exploded,” Butler said. “I went 2-0 the first day of states and that night, I ripped my nail off because it was basically halfway off. I wrapped it up super tight and wrestled basically single-handedly my last three matches.”
Friday night football games under the lights at Liberty is just one of the many things Butler said he will miss the most about his high school career. The friendships he formed and memories he made are those he will always cherish.
Butler announced his commitment to play football at Salisbury University on his personal Twitter account in March.
“He’s such a strong kid, and if he keeps working hard and improving, he’s only going to get stronger,” Luthe said. “I think he will be very successful and if he gets to the football in college like I expect he will, they’ll find the best place for him.”