As soon as Cory Butler-Byrd’s family saw UCLA take the opening kickoff two weekends ago, they grabbed their phones, and they immediately started filming him — they knew he was going to run it back almost the entire length of the field.
Butler-Byrd went on to score a 99 yard kickoff return touchdown, and that play has arguably been the shining moment for the Utah specials team. No one else has done, no one else has come close, but Butler-Byrd was anxious to do so, and to do so in his hometown made those seven points even sweeter.
However, the Los Angeles native hasn’t enjoyed this type of success, or praise for that matter, for a good portion of the season.
Butler-Byrd was suspended from the Utah football program after he faced a criminal mischief charge when he damaged a University Police car and building on the Utah campus. He entered a guilty plea in abeyance a couple weeks after, and he was soon reinstated onto the team, but he had to work his way back to his assumed starting role.
Butler-Byrd was placed on the scout team for the first two weeks of the season, and he never got down on himself. Head coach Kyle Whittingham even mentioned that at one point he was given the scout team player of the week. But the coach Butler-Byrd turned to time and time again was Sharrieff Shah.
“He’s always been my mentor since I’ve been here, and he told me I got to take care of business now more than ever,” Butler-Byrd said. “[I have to] prove to the people over again the type of person I am, and remind people that I’m a nice guy.”
Butler-Byrd has been shouldering some new responsibilities ever since he was arrested, but one that probably takes up most of his time is his son.
Butler-Byrd and his fiancé welcomed a baby boy a few weeks ago, Cory Butler-Byrd II. Although he keeps his father awake at night, Butler-Byrd is enjoying all the parenthood has to offer, and one person who has been by his side through it all has been Joe Williams.
The duo have become close the past year, and they often go on double dates with each other and their fiancés — their first double date was to Crimson Nights, and they went bowling. Butler-Byrd thinks the two clicked because of how much they value their own family, and Williams is even Butler-Byrd’s son’s godfather.
“Any time I fall, or he falls, we’re always there to pick each other up, that’s why I can trust he will be a good godfather to my child,” Butler-Byrd said. “I know if I’m gone or anything like that then he’s going to step up and help out.”
And with Williams coming out of retirement a few weeks back, aside from his fiancé and his family, Williams would say that Butler-Byrd has been the most supportive person to help him get back on his feet. At the beginning of the season, Butler-Byrd could tell Williams wasn’t into it, but he loves the way he has been playing recently. And now, the two even share some time at running back, but they have each other’s backs no matter who is getting the go-ahead.
“That’s probably been my biggest support system in regards to coming back,” Williams said. “I wish him all the best during the game. We crack up on the sideline so I was happy to see him back there taking some carries.”
Williams retired from football the day Butler-Byrd was reinstated onto the team. Whether or not Butler-Byrd was brought back on because of Williams’ departure, Butler-Byrd made sure he was not going to throw away his shot.
That first game back against San Jose State, Butler-Byrd was anxious to get going, and quarterback Troy Williams was anxious to get him going, too. Butler-Byrd spoke to the team the night before the game, and he let them know everything that was going on. Then gameday arrived, and almost right off the bat Troy hit Butler-Byrd for a 45 yard gain, and he hasn’t really missed a beat since.
“[It] just showed me that this guy loves the game no matter what position he’s in, he loves the game of football,” Troy said following the win against San Jose State. “He didn’t go down and tank — he didn’t say, ‘Forget everybody.’ He was on the scout team, he gave it his all everyday, and he’s been blessed with an opportunity to be back with us. And we’re all happy he’s back.”
What it all comes down to is his play on the field, and Troy argues that Butler-Byrd has all the characteristics of a playmaker, and he is someone defenders have to keep their eyes on at all times. Whittingham agrees, and he acknowledges that Butler-Byrd’s versatility as a wide receiver and a running back has helped the team in countless situations.
But of all the positions he bounces between, Butler-Byrd enjoys his time on the specials team, where he can run a kickoff back for a touchdown.