Sidelined from football, Craig Butler stayed involved in the community (and he’s back)

Craig Butler got down on the gymnasium floor at Regina Mundi elementary earlier this week to take part in a push up “competition” between his Hamilton Tiger-Cat teammates and some students from the school. The Ticats “lost” but Butler didn’t seem to mind.

A year ago, at the same school launching the same community program – the BeFit campaign in support of healthy eating and exercise – Butler was hobbling around with the use of a cane. His knee had been surgically repaired once and he was facing a second procedure that would ultimately force him to miss the entire 2016 CFL campaign.

Butler’s knee issues actually began in the second half of 2015, when he played the last 11 games on what doctors would later determine was a partially torn ACL. It’s an injury that should put him on the sidelines but instead, Butler finished the year and was named an CFL all-star at safety.

“I had pain but I was able to play at a level that would still help the team so I kept going,” he said. “It did not feel good.”

The 28-year-old has his second operation last May, two weeks before the start of training camp and knew that, barring a miracle, he’d be relegated to role of part-time coach and full-time rehab patient for the entire season.

“When you’re not playing, you kind of feel like an outsider. You’re kind of in football purgatory when you’re injured, there but not there,” Butler said. “I helped out where I could, another set of eyes and ears for guys. I was a resource as much or as a little as anyone wanted me to be.”

If his role on the team was somewhat diminished, his activities in the community were not. Butler has been one of the Ticats’ most visible representatives since joining the team as a free agent before the 2014 season, doing dozens of school appearances, football clinics and hospital visits year ’round.

“You don’t have to make cuts, back pedal and tackle guys at a school – it’s a pretty easy thing to do compared to playing football,” he said. “I know it sounds cliche but being able to give back to the community is one of my favourite parts about being a professional athlete.”

The Ticats BeFit program has been around since 2010 and has now reached more than 80,000 students across the Hamilton area. It features Ticat players conducting a short, high-energy presentation on the value of exercise and good food choices and will include the first ever BeFit Day at Tim Hortons Field during a June 16 pre-season game.

“Kids kind of hang to every single word and eating healthy and getting exercise is such a simple message,” Butler said. “They’re listening not because it’s me telling them but because I’m a Hamilton Tiger-Cat.”

Butler says the knee is back to about 90 per cent and he expects to be cleared for full participation in training camp. Whether he returns to his old spot at safety – where Courtney Stephen played last season – or finds another role is of little consequence at this point.

“Whatever they ask me to do, I’m going to do it and flourish. I just had a season where I didn’t take any hits to my shoulder, my chest, my neck, my head,” Butler said. “The rest of my body feels better than it ever has.”

Must be all the healthy eating and exercise.

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards

Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.
Drew Edwards
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Drew Edwards
About Drew Edwards (778 Articles)
Drew Edwards is into his eighth season covering the CFL and the Ticats for the Hamilton Spectator. He is the founder and editor of 3DownNation.

10 Comments on Sidelined from football, Craig Butler stayed involved in the community (and he’s back)

  1. Lindsay Wilcox // March 1, 2017 at 4:37 pm //

    Good football player, and a good guy.

  2. Will welcome Craig Butler back at either safety (returning Courtney Stephen to cornerback) or LB (a position he played really well in Saskatchewan)…

    Having an extra National on defence may allow an international to replace Fantuz at receiver and provide some ratio flexibility throughout the long season…

    With some all star calibre players being signed and returning from IR the defence is looking pretty solid… now if Coach Reinbold can put his players in the right position at the right time it should make for a great season of old time Ticat football… you know, a dominant defence that scares opponents… and lives by the mantra ” Not in our house…”

    Cheers… Snake

  3. Anymore basketball games? They raised a fair bit of money and great entertainment.

    • I recall Theismann, Mack and the boys hitting the court at our HS in Toronto back in the early ’70s. Garney, of course, loved/coached the game with a passion.

  4. It’s going to be great to have Butler back on the field. So many of these players also give much of themselves for the community and the children especially.

  5. I have been one of his critics since he arrived – maybe unfairly if he was playing on a bad knee for the latter half of 2015 – I look forward to seeing him come back strong in 2017 – like to see the Ticat players stay in Hamilton particularly in the off-season and give back to the community.

  6. stampland // March 1, 2017 at 10:53 pm //

    Its great when players stay in the community during off season.That’s how teams lay roots and popularity.(besides winning)

  7. Steve Driver // March 2, 2017 at 2:37 pm //

    The TiCats would be wise to start Butler at the SAM linebacker position. His skill set would be a nice fit there. Time for a Stevewieser !!!

  8. The Iceman // March 3, 2017 at 9:03 am //

    Maybe because Craig Butler was ruled out for last season so early I did not think of him as missing when considering last years team.
    Any CFL team that loses an All Star National player gets hurt in the worst way. Second to losing Collaros was the team losing the services of Craig Butler. Welcome back, your skill and swagger will raise the bar on defence!

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