Matthew Butler was having a quiet Saturday afternoon at home in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his family.
Then a Las Vegas area code appeared on his phone, promptly changing his life.
The defensive tackle from Tennessee was drafted by the Las Vegas Raiders with the 175th overall pick. Butler is the third SEC player taken by the Raiders this draft and the second North Carolina native. The explosive defensive lineman coming off a five-sack season was cool, calm and composed after being selected, and Butler quickly let Raiders.com in on what he wants to accomplish not only within football, but his personal goals away from the field.
LE: What can Raider Nation expect from Matthew Butler?
MB: You should expect someone high effort, high energy. Always going to himself, never going to come out of character. High character guy, I can talk about football all day, but I'm also going to pour into the Raiders organization and let the Raiders organization pour into me. And do my best to be a leader in the locker room and be willing to be led by guys who've been doing this for a long time. Obviously everybody wants to be on top, and that's exactly what I'm wanting. I'm going to let these next couple of months, and hopefully the next few years, do the talking.
I expect great things out of myself so hopefully you expect great things out of me too.
Levi Edwards: You were a political science major, correct?
Matthew Butler: That's correct.
LE: What made you want to go that route?
MB: I want to maybe do some criminal justice work or maybe some constitution [law], some custody work. Whether it be philanthropic or truly representing people when I'm done playing ball – which hopefully is no time soon — it's something that I'm into, and political science is a good all-around major for that type of stuff, so that's what I went into and excelled at it.
LE: Even while you're in the NFL, you believe that you could dabble in those ventures perhaps?
MB: For sure. Obviously these first couple of months, years, it will be as close to All Ball, All The Time as I possibly can. I love ball, and that's going to be priority No. 1 because I want to make my way in this league. But outside of that, those are things that I'm passionate about, so I can definitely see myself getting into philanthropy in those realms. And also learning more about those realms in Las Vegas and the surrounding areas and just try to put my foot forward wherever I can.
LE: You have a history of doing community service work in high school and in Knoxville. What are your favorite experiences in giving back to others?
MB: If I just told one story I'd be selling myself short. I had so many experiences at Tennessee, but just being able to go to the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and do the East-West Shrine Bowl in Vegas and meet the different children – that touched me. The last child I met there is an absolutely great guy, and I met him through Shriners in Las Vegas. He's a great dude, and I was thankful to meet him and thankful he was able to pour into me a little bit.
A lot of people think that community service, you're just trying to pour so much into people, and those people don't really have an open mind and let people pour into them. Whatever I'm able to touch, I always try to have an open mind, so it can touch my heart too. That's a big deal to me.
LE: What were your first impressions of Las Vegas when you were here for the East-West Shrine Bowl?
MB: I was really just in the hotel the first three days. They gave us a playbook, and there's a lot of interviewing going on. I was over here kind of scouting out my competition a little bit. One of my agents is based in Vegas, so we went and got some food and just driving around, I was like 'Wow.' I like Charlotte, I like Raleigh, I'm cool with Knoxville – and Vegas is very much different than all of those places. And when we were able to go out for the Pro Bowl festivities and seeing those surrounding areas of Vegas with the houses, the mountains and desert – it was really beautiful. I literally said to myself, 'I could see myself being here, for sure' and lo and behold, here I come.
With the 175th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders select defensive tackle Matthew Butler.