Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Watch List
“You go through adversity and you go through tough times and you get over obstacles, but in the end, it’s all worth it … the glory of being a champion and a winner.”
Raising a family in Baltimore, Maryland wasn’t easy, but Sheryl Butler worked hard to ensure that her three children were happy. She wanted them to realize their potential and live every day to the fullest.
In 2012, Sheryl lost her battle with breast cancer, but it was her courage and positivity throughout her illness that served as a living example of what she wanted for her children.
“I don’t even know how to explain her presence,” said Iowa State receiver Hakeem Butler. “She was literally my world; she was the greatest thing for me. She was always happy. Even going through breast cancer and everything she went through, she always had a smile on her face.”
Butler and his siblings soon moved to Houston, Texas to live with family. While the move would be hard on any teenager, the extraneous circumstances surrounding the transition were, of course, difficult.
“He’s a people magnet. If you know him, you like him and you want to be around him.”
“You just examine what he’s been through, right?” said uncle Aaron Harrison Sr. of all Hakeem has overcome. “But I think whatever he wants to do will be done. He’s a people magnet. If you know him, you like him and you want to be around him. You can sit there and laugh with him all day long. So if you know him, you know his personality, which is like his mother’s. Upbeat, happy, always happy.”
Butler’s aunt, Faith Ford, agrees with the sentiment. “It’s called love, and with love comes commitment and sacrifice,” she said. “I just see evidence of all of that, especially as Hakeem has blossomed so, and I know my sister is so very proud, from Heaven, at the accomplishments this young man has achieved. He’s always been a very intelligent, charismatic young man, and very, very capable. She’s always instilled that in her children and to see it come to fruition at this time, we’re all just very proud of him.”
Butler’s love for his family is evident; he refers to Harrison as dad and cousins Andrew and Aaron Jr. as brothers. He relies on them, is grateful for the family that has embraced him. Though he’s experienced tough circumstances at a young age, he chooses to instead focus on the positive.
“I know he had an amazing mother, and in a situation where I think he’s taken some of the great gifts that she’s given him and really empowered him to move forward and take some of the challenges that he’s had head-on and fight through adversity. And I think that’s really allowed his growth to happen and the true Hakeem Butler, as he’s continued to grow up, to really show out,” said Iowa State head football coach Matt Campbell.
Butler is an emerging star on the football field for the Cyclones, but when he looks at his future he looks at the opportunities he could have to mentor underprivileged youth.
“Being a role model is big for me because eventually I want to mentor kids. To help people, to help young kids growing up to have better opportunities and things that I didn’t have. I have good experience in certain things in life and how to get through adversities. If I can go out there and help at least one person, I feel like I’ve done good in my life,” he said.
Butler, who is working towards a degree in liberal studies with a minor in fashion design, says that earning his degree would make his mother incredibly proud.
“I think that’s going to be one of the greatest feelings for me. Most people in Baltimore, you don’t even make it through high school. But graduating from college was always like a dream for me and now that’s very much a reality. That’s a feeling I can’t wait to have, just walking across that stage. And I wish she was there for it, but I know she’ll be there in spirit,” he said.