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DT Butler ready to serve

CHARLOTTE – There is no pretense around Vernon Butler, the Panthers' first-round draft pick who will wear No. 92 "because that's what they had left."

Butler, an imposing defensive tackle with a soft-spoken manner, chose to attend comparatively low-key Louisiana Tech over a couple of high profile Southeastern Conference schools in his home state of Mississippi, and he said he'd do the same given a second chance.

He did travel to Chicago for the NFL Draft but with one eye on his hometown of McComb, where members of his congregation at New Life Fellowship Church gathered to watch the draft.

"I Facetimed my mom, and they went crazy when my name was called," Butler said. "It was pretty nice."

And while many of his fellow draft attendees gave spectators at the pre-draft red carpet walk an eyeful, Butler kept it simple but sharp.

"Less is more," he said.


It's the perfect mentality for an NFL defensive tackle, especially a player coming in to supplement rather than supplant a pair of similarly soften-spoken players with games that speak volumes.

"We've got guys like K.K. Short and Star (Lotulelei). I can't wait to get in and work with those guys," Butler said. "I think I'll fit in there pretty well."

The Panthers think so as well. Even with a wealth of talent already in place at the position, the Panthers felt that Butler had no business still being available come their pick at No. 30.

Friday, about 12 hours after the Panthers pounced to pick him, Butler was back in Bank of America Stadium, a place he visited during the draft process and a place he'll now call home.

"I just toured the whole facility, talked to Coach Rivera and the strength coaches, ate some lunch," Butler said. "It's been great. It's been an enjoyable experience. I'm thankful. I just want to thank Mr. Richardson and Panthers' staff.

"There are good vibes around this place."

Butler may be a gentle giant off the field, but he's simply a giant on it. Butler, however, isn't just about brute force; he moves like no 323-pounder realistically should.

"When you look at me, you might not think I'm as athletic or as explosive as I am. I move pretty well for my size," he said. "I can get offensive linemen off-guard with my quickness."

Like any rookie, there is a learning curve ahead. Butler said he's been focusing on improving as a pass rusher this offseason and that he can't wait "to show people what I've got."

He'll do it with actions, not words. The Panthers wouldn't have it any other way.

"As a person, I'm respectful. I'm someone you can get along with easily, an easy-going guy," Butler said. "As a player, I'm going to work hard every day. I want to get better and help my team get better."

View photos of the Panthers' first-round pick as he tours Bank of America Stadium.

NOTE: The Panthers added another defensive tackle to the roster Friday, claiming Robert Thomas off waivers from the Miami Dolphins. A 6-3, 325-pounder, Thomas went undrafted out of Arkansas in 2014 and played in one game for Miami last year after spending time on practice squads in Washington, Seattle and New England.

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