Doeren: Butler will return this season


Northern Star File Photo

By Jerry Burnes

Almost a year after being injured in an off-campus shooting, NIU linebacker Devon Butler will return to the field, head coach Dave Doeren announced Monday.

Butler missed the entire 2011 season after being shot in the back on April 5, 2011, and suffered a collapsed lung. Doeren said the redshirt junior met with doctors last week and was cleared for full contact. Butler will compete with Victor Jacques for the middle linebacker position this spring.

“He went through all the winter conditioning,” Doeren said. “He’s in as good of shape as he’s been in since the incident.”

Butler’s injury meant the Huskies were down a 2010 third-team All-MAC performer. He recorded 80 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble in 13 starts that season.

Prior to the shooting, Butler was listed as the starting linebacker in 2011 and was enjoying a highly successful spring campaign.

Whether or not Butler immediately returns to 2010 form has yet to be seen, and the coaching staff stopped short of setting any expectations. He will participate in his first practice Wednesday when spring camp breaks.

“In Devon’s case, I didn’t see much of him last year before his injury occurred,” said defensive coordinator Jay Niemann. “So I think the main thing is hopefully we’ll get him back on the field healthy and taking reps and getting back in the groove of playing football.”

In Butler’s absence, NIU’s starting linebackers were among the top-six tacklers in 2011, lead by 115 from senior middle linebacker Pat Schiller. Jordan Delegal recorded 82 and embattled linebacker Jamaal Bass finished with 62.

Following the shooting, DeKalb police arrested Richard Van Arsdale III and Mark Orozco, two NIU students at the time. Both were charged with attempted first degree murder, aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and unlawful delivery of cannabis.

The incident was called a “bad drug transaction” by police, in which Butler was an innocent bystander.

On March 9, Van Arsdale pleaded guilty to residential burglary and will serve a nine-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against Orozco. As a Class 1 felony he will serve at least 50 percent of his sentence and be placed on parole for two years after his release.

Butler opted to take his redshirt season in 2011 to recover from the injuries he sustained in the shooting and will have two years of eligibility left at NIU.