The Phoenix metro area is a big place, but for standout high school athletes, it’s a small world.
Emmanuel Butler is two years older than Byron Murphy and N’Keal Harry, but the trio became close growing up, often crossing paths on football fields and basketball courts.
They each went different ways for college -- Butler played wide receiver at Northern Arizona, Murphy a cornerback at Washington and Harry a wideout at Arizona State -- and have reunited this week at the NFL Scouting combine in Indianapolis.
“It’s a great experience, especially to go through it with some guys that you have known for so long,” Butler said. “I’m loving it.”
Murphy and Harry were teammates early in their high school careers at Tempe Marcos de Niza and even lived together for a stretch. They eventually diverged, as Murphy transferred to Scottsdale Saguaro and Harry to Chandler High, but the friendship always remained rock solid.
Now the pair is on the precipice of becoming professional athletes. Murphy is projected to be a first-round pick, while Harry is projected to go late in the first round or the second.
“We worked hard to be here,” Harry said. “We always dreamed of this. We planned this. To see that it’s coming true, it really is a blessing.”
Harry and Butler played on the same 7-on-7 team as teenagers, which couldn’t have been much fun for opposing defensive backs.
“Him and I on each side really was dangerous,” Harry said.
Butler remembers the first time he watched Harry on the field.
“I really got to know him when he was a freshman at Marcos,” Butler said. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, he’s good.’ And they told me he was a freshman. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. He’s about to be amazing.’ And he was a great basketball player as well.”
The common link between the trio was Emmanuel’s younger brother, Isaiah, who is now a cornerback at Sacramento State. While the circumstances in their lives have changed over the years, the relationships have endured.
“We all started getting to know each other… and we kind of all just clicked,” Butler said.
Images of Cardinals cheerleader Ashley from the 2018 season