Wade Phillips Shares Heartfelt Message With UFL Star Hakeem Butler: ‘You Need To Be Playing [in the NFL]’

    Hakeem Butler took the UFL by storm this year, and San Antonio Brahmas head coach Wade Phillips thinks he should be playing in the NFL next season.

    Over the last few seasons, we have seen several spring league football players jump into or back into the NFL and continue their playing careers at the highest stage. Some have even become Pro Bowlers, like Dallas Cowboys return man KaVontae Turpin. Long-time NFL coach Wade Phillips believes UFL star Hakeem Butler could be the next to follow that path.

    Wade Phillips Tells Hakeem Butler He Is an NFL Talent

    On Sunday, the UFL provided a hard-fought playoff game that saw Phillips’ San Antonio Brahmas beat Butler’s St. Louis Battlehawks to advance to the championship game. However, following the contest, a moment was shared between player and coach that had the NFL world talking.

    As the two were meeting at midfield following the game, Phillips made sure to grab the attention of Butler to ensure he knew that he respected his ability and was going to tell everyone he could to help get him back into the NFL.

    “I’m going to tell everyone in the NFL that I talk to [that] you need to be playing [in the NFL],” Phillips said.

    “I appreciate that coach; you’re a great coach,” Butler responded.

    MORE: Who Is Wade Phillips? A Closer Look at the Brahmas’ Head Coach

    The interaction was caught by the cameras and microphones of Fox, serving as just another moment of unprecedented access that fans get from the UFL.

    Butler’s Impressive 2024 Season as UFL Offensive Player of the Year

    Looking at the season Butler had, it’s clear why Phillips feels he deserves an NFL shot. Butler finished the 10-game UFL season first in the league in receiving yards with 652, second in receiving touchdowns with five, and tied for fourth in receptions with 45.

    Butler is 6’6″ and 220 pounds, providing the rare size and strength at the WR position that many teams covet. The former Iowa State Cyclone just turned 28 years old and will have two full seasons in the NFL before the feared age of 30 hits, setting up an interesting dynamic to help a roster now.

    He has had multiple chances in the NFL, and although he wasn’t able to make any stay stick, his recent development and production in the UFL may once again open doors for him to get back into the NFL.

    Revisiting Butler’s Time in the NFL

    Butler’s football path has been an interesting one. It started in 2019 when Butler was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. However, he missed his entire rookie season with a broken hand and was waived by the team during the final training camp cuts ahead of the 2020 season.

    Two weeks later Butler was picked up by the Carolina Panthers and put on their practice squad before being poached by the Philadelphia Eagles and added to their 53-man roster two weeks later. While Butler is a WR by trade, during his time with the Eagles they tried the big-bodied receiver at TE as well.

    While there, Butler bounced between the active roster and the practice squad for the Eagles before ultimately being waived ahead of the 2021 season.

    Following that brief stint, Butler began a path that saw stops in the Canadian Football League and the XFL before ultimately joining the UFL when the spring football leagues (USFL and XFL) joined forces.

    Butler signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers on May 16, 2023, after his XFL stint with St. Louis. However, three months later he was waived/injured by the Steelers and was reverted to injured reserve before being released from the team on Aug. 25, leading to his current and second stint with the Battlehawks, now in the UFL.

    Butler Reportedly Working Out for Carolina Panthers

    On late Monday afternoon, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Butler will be working out for the Carolina Panthers in the near future.

    If Butler makes a good impression, then it is safe to assume he’ll receive an invite to Panthers training camp in hopes of making the 53-man roster.

    Considering the Panthers have relatively thin depth at the wide receiver position, this provides Butler with a strong opportunity to compete for the team’s final wide receiver spot in training camp.

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