By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Waynesville, Missouri is no stranger to high profile athletes, producing pros like NFL linebacker L.J. Fort and Juwan Morgan (Utah Jazz) over the last decade.
The next name to add to that list might be senior running back Shen Butler-Lawson.
Coming off of back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Butler-Lawson has emerged as one of the top prospects in Missouri’s loaded 2020 class, but is still a relative secret to many across the state.
With a personality as immense as his talent, expect that to change this year.
Butler-Lawson not only has a rare blend of speed and power, but he also represents a paradigm shift in what exactly a running back is. He’s as likely to rip off a home run play from a handoff as he is off the catch.
For second-year Waynesville head coach Joe Haynes there’s no question why Power 5 Purdue and FCS South Dakota have already offered the dynamic running back.
“He’s elusive,” said Haynes. “He can run between the tackles and his size will make coaches smile. When you clock back-to-back 4.5 40s – laser timed – at combines it’ll get anyone knocking on your door. He brings so many things to the field as a running back, receiver and defensively; it makes him a prospect for anybody.”
Watch his tape and you’ll be amazed at his play-making ability via the run or the catch.
And, for a guy that totaled 1,237 yards on just 147 touches from scrimmage, there was no shortage of highlight plays. This on the heels of a junior campaign that saw him rush for 1,087 yards (208 carries) and add another 216 receiving yards.
However, nothing can touch his 98-yard touchdown run last fall against defensive juggernaut West Plains in which he broke the tackles of or eluded eight Zizzer defenders.
“If I knew in hindsight I would’ve said boys we’ll see this again next week because he did it against Glendale the very next week,” said Haynes. “But it shows the heart that he has. There were four or five guys on him and all you see is his legs still moving. That play was all effort and all heart.”
Haynes has grown accustomed to seeing these kinds of plays day after day. It was plays like that which earned Butler-Lawson both his first FCS and FBS offer, with the latter coming as a shock to the 6-foot, 190-pound back.
The Boilermakers had a coach that had been in contact with Butler-Lawson, but the process of him getting offered happened quickly.
“It was shocking, honestly,” said Butler-Lawson. “We talked for like two weeks and then he came to the school. We were having a regular conversation and he asked me how many offers I had. He said there are guys with several offers that aren’t really that good. So he asked me again how many offers I had. I said none. So he told me I just got my first one from Purdue.”
Ball State has also been in the mix for Butler-Lawson’s services, with potential suitors likely joining the fray in the fall.
Playing on 7v7 power Midwest Boom alongside nationally-ranked recruits such as Jalen Johnson (Notre Dame commit), Mookie Cooper (Ohio State commit) and Reggie Love (Illinois commit) – all Rivals250 prospects – only helped Butler-Lawson grow his game, specifically as a pass catcher.
“They’ve helped me a lot with the technique and route running; where to sit and why to sit there. It helped me understand the bigger concepts,” said Butler-Lawson.
Coach Hayes believes his star running back’s next area of growth will come in pass protection, something that will help make him a complete, three-down back.
Butler-Lawson isn’t caught up on levels or conferences, just finding the right fit for him. And for the program that does land him, he believes his impact will be the same no matter where he ends up.
“I think I could play Division One football but anywhere I go I’m going to do my thing, be a good teammate and make the best out of that situation,” said Butler-Lawson. “If you get me I’m going to work hard every day and if I’m not starting, I’m going to make that starter better because I’m going to push him every day.”
Haynes isn’t too caught up in levels either, being proud of the fact at the end of the day his student-athlete will get a high-level education for free and a lifetime’s worth of experiences because of what he can do with a football.
“Shen has the opportunity to make it to the next level and get his education paid for first and foremost and then what he does from there will open up the doors for what he does as a career,” said Haynes. “We would all love to see him on a Sunday, but that’s too far to project. What I can tell you is that if he progresses the way he has he’ll earn a scholarship to go get a degree and use football as a tool to get himself where he wants to be in life and we’ll be excited either way.”
Regardless of level, Butler-Lawson is hoping to transition from Fridays to Saturdays and Sundays. Similar to the aforementioned Fort, who played his college football with FCS power Northern Iowa before catching on with the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and now with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“The League, that’s the end goal,” said Butler-Lawson. “I think that if I can continue to build and work hard that I can get there.”