CHARLOTTE – Four Louisiana Tech alumni – quarterback Terry Bradshaw, defensive end Fred Dean, linebacker Leo Sanford and kicker Matt Stover – have hoisted a Lombardi Trophy and been selected to a Pro Bowl.
Defensive tackle Vernon Butler, the earliest Bulldog selected in the NFL Draft since wide receiver Troy Edwards (13th overall in 1999), hopes to eventually join that list.
"Vernon Butler is one of those young men that really fits into what we want to do and what we want to become," said head coach Ron Rivera Monday evening when he and the first-round pick joined the Panther Talk show.
Butler credits his excellent tutors along the defensive line for helping him fit in so quickly.
"In my first game, they (Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short and Paul Soliai) were the men that helped me develop with everything, like with the plays, technique and stuff," said Butler. "It's the little things like work habits, coming out before practice and getting work in. Sometimes we'll stay after, me and Paul. Sometimes we stay after for film. It's just the little things to get the edge on our opponent."
Building that comradery and communication not only improves Butler's development off the field, but also enhances the defensive line's performance on it.
"Our room is really tight-knit," said the rookie. "Everybody gets along like brothers, really. When we're on the field communicating with each other, whether it's reminding somebody of what the play was or during the game, so we have to communicate back-and-forth about all of that."
When the Panthers opened their campaign in Denver, it was Butler that recorded the first sack of the season. A sign of good things to come.
"I felt like I was in a dream," Butler recalled. "It was one-on-one. I beat him with an inside move. After that, I just ran to the quarterback."
View the top photos from Carolina's win at home by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.