Notre Dame freshman cornerback Devin Butler is always anticipating the next weekend.
Sure, like his other teammates, Butler looks forward to suiting up for the Irish each Saturday, but weekends also offer the Washington, D.C. native an added incentive: He gets to see his brother.
Darius Butler was a freshman at Howard University in Oct. 2008 when he was shot five times returning home one evening. Three of the bullets entered his back and left him paralyzed. The situation dictated that Devin, then in middle school, mature quicker than ever. He helped Darius with his daily routine, from brushing his teeth to getting in the car to eating a meal.
Although Darius moved into his own apartment prior to Devin’s graduation from Gonzaga High School, where he starred as a three-unit performer on the football team and earned a scholarship offer from Notre Dame, this past summer represented a new challenge for the inseparable duo as younger brother headed west for college. But Darius has trekked five of Devin’s first six games so the brothers can reconnect in person.
“Yeah, it was a tough adjustment during the summer,” Devin said. “I talked to him all the time, everyday I called him and he’s been up here for every game except Purdue. So I see him pretty much every weekend and each time it’s like a brand new weekend really.
“He definitely tells me how he misses his little brother. He moved out before I left so I always spent time over at his new apartment and it was like really cutting the cord I guess.”
In his first months on campus, Devin has already impacted the 4-2 Irish. He’s appeared in the defensive backfield and on kickoff coverage as a freshman, yet another testament to his ability to adjust to challenges. He was recognized as special teams player of the week against Oklahoma and head coach Brian Kelly praised his physical play on the unit.
When asked about his contributions, Devin leaves no doubt as to the source of his inspiration.
“[My brother attending the games] gives me a lot of motivation,” he said. “He’s someone that’s my biggest supporter and through anything he’s told me how proud of me he is and he always expresses that when nobody else believes in me he believes in me.”
After caretaking for Darius for so long, now Devin relies on Notre Dame’s veteran defensive backs (seniors Bennett Jackson and Lo Wood and sophomore KeiVarae Russell) to help with the learning curve of big-time college football.
“I guess really all the [defensive backs] are really close,” Devin said. “Bennett, Lo and KeiVarae are guys I bonded to during recruiting and during the summer all four of the freshmen really bonded and became close and I feel like that’s what helps our unit grow is that we’re all really close and we’re all good friends.”
One of the fellow freshman cornerbacks, Cole Luke, has seen a significant amount of playing time during the first half of the season, often in the nickel back role. Devin said they often discuss their shared transition into defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s defense.
“We definitely help each other,” Devin said. “I talk to him a lot about different techniques and things like that and what he thinks I should do better and he asks my opinion sometimes and we really just help each other learn.”
Devin knows a thing or two about learning and adapting — and looking forward to the next weekend.