June 17, 2011
By Lindsey D. Jones
The NFL lockout is often depicted as a battle between billionaire team owners and millionaire players fighting over who will get the bigger slice of a $9 billion pie. The longer the lockout continues the more everyone loses; and perhaps no other group stands to lose more than 2011 undrafted free agents like former Georgia Tech standout Mario Butler.
Butler joined the Yellow Jackets in 2007 and began playing on special teams as a true freshman. He soon became a dependable three-year starter at cornerback for the Jackets and started 39 consecutive games from 2008-2010.
He is an example of someone who has definitely felt the impact of the NFL lockout. While Butler was not considered a candidate to be drafted in one of the early rounds, he had expectations of being drafted at some point after being invited to the NFL Combine.
Now, he continues to train and wait for the lockout to end. At that point he hopes to get a shot with an NFL team that needs help in the secondary.
“It’s one of those experiences that’s really nerve racking because you really don’t know where you are going to land. ” Butler said by phone recently.
In many cases, it is often an advantage to be an undrafted free agent rather than to be picked up late in the draft. These undrafted players, once they make a roster, typically end up making similar amounts of money and once their offers come in they get to choose their franchise. Usually these offers come within hours after the draft and free agents are able to sign on the dotted line within a few days time.
However, this is not the case for the 2011 undrafted free agents.
“Normally in this situation it’s kind of good to go free agent rather than getting picked in the last few rounds so that you can pick the best team situation for you, but this is one of those years where you really wanted to get drafted so that you know you have a home somewhere,” said Butler, who is currently training and living in his hometown of Jacksonville Fla.
Michael Cox, a former player for Georgia Tech, gives Butler and other undrafted Yellow Jackets like Joshua Nesbitt and Scott Blair a reason to be optimistic. Cox went undrafted in 2008 and soon after became a free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs. He started for the Chiefs as a rookie and still remains an integral part of their offense.
As the days go by the chances of undrafted free agents finding a home and getting their shot at the big time like Cox, continues to decline. Players like Butler know that even if the lockout comes to an end in the near future, they will still be left at a major disadvantage than past players in their position.
“Since I wasn’t drafted this year, I have to fight extra hard to compete for the roster spot. I’m not going to have as many times in the OTA’s (Off-Season Training Activities) and mini-camps to compete and try to impress these coaches.”
However, Butler has chosen to stay positive and make the best of his current predicament. “I’m one of those people that know what’s ahead of me if I continue working hard. I’ve been working hard all of my life… I know that there will be an end somewhere so I have to put myself in the best possible position to succeed.”
That is exactly what he has done. Mario takes pride in his training regimen, consisting of conditioning, cardio, lifting, and position drills five days a week.
Butler said that right now, “training is my life!”