When Hakeem Butler met with the Cardinals and Kliff Kingsbury at the Scouting combine, the Iowa State wide receiver told Kingsbury that he had wanted to play for Kingsbury at Texas Tech – but Kingsbury never extended a scholarship offer.
Saturday morning, Kingsbury – talking to Butler after the Cardinals made the 6-foot-5, 227-pounder the first pick of the fourth round – issued a mea culpa.
“He told me he wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice,” Butler said.
Butler gives the Cardinals the big receiver for which they’ve been looking. At his height, he has the ability to go up and over defensive backs for the catch, something he turned into an art form for the Cyclones. Many projected him to go as high as the second round.
General Manager Steve Keim said picking Butler was a "no-brainer," thinking Butler would have been long gone by their fourth-round pick. The Cards put Butler through a private workout and they had tracked him through the draft process, liking not only his athletic attributes but also his character.
"Seeing him in person a few years, and we didn't recruit him out of high school -- a lot of people in the state missed on him -- to watch the player he's turned into, the way he competes, the physicality, he is a special talent," Kingsbury said.
Butler acknowledged he was a little disappointed he lasted until the fourth, but “I’m just blessed, excited and thrilled to be in this position, honestly.”
The Cardinals have now bolstered a wide receivers room with two of their first five draft picks, adding smaller speedster Andy Isabella of UMass with their second second-round pick Friday. Both figure to fit nicely into a unit with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk.
The chance to play – and learn – from Fitzgerald “might be the thing I’m most excited about,” Butler said. “He’s a legend. Larry Legend. To pick up anything from him, whether it be next year or however many years he’s there, I’m excited.”
Butler also called new teammate and quarterback Kyler Murray the best player he played against last season and believed he was the best player in the draft.
Butler had 60 catches for 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns this past season for the Cyclones. He has decent speed – 4.48 40 – although he has to get more consistent catching the ball.
He showed he could make the big play in college, however. Against Texas Tech in 2018, Butler burned Kingsbury’s Red Raiders for four catches for 148 yards and a touchdown in a 40-31 Iowa State win.
“What’s crazy is that (Kingsbury) came up to me after the game and told me, ‘You’re a beast, man, and I love your game,’ ” Butler said. “It’s just crazy to have it all come full circle.”