Because colleges and pros use tight ends differently, only two tight ends have been first-round picks since 2011. The last was Eric Ebron, the 10th overall pick by the Detroit Lions in 2014. Butt, who won the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end this season, was rated the third-best draft-eligible tight end by ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. Now, though, Butt is facing knee surgery.
Butt, who tore his right ACL during conditioning drills before his sophomore season, hurt the same knee Friday when he was hit after making a 16-yard catch early in the second quarter of Michigan’s 33-32 loss. He was down on the field for a few moments before walking off to the locker room without help.
There were no regrets, though, early Saturday morning for Butt, who bypassed the NFL draft last year to play his senior season and was a team co-captain. It “never crossed my mind to sit this game out and I would never change that mind-set,” he tweeted.
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and LSU running back Leonard Fournette chose to skip bowl games rather than risk precisely what happened to Butt. It’s a personal decision for each player, but most choose to play in bowls.
“Right away, you get disappointed,” Bernie Olivas, the Sun Bowl’s executive director, said of McCaffrey’s choice. “I understand what he’s trying to do. He’s got to prepare hopefully for his future. There was a little disappointment. I certainly understand what his views are, and we’ll go on with the football game . . . He’s just looking out for his future. You can’t blame him for that.”
Until he can prove himself in the NFL, Butt at least has $4 million in total disability insurance, according to ESPN, and that would pay out if he can’t play football. He also has $2 million in loss-of-value insurance that would pay if he is taken past the second round in the draft.