Notre Dame cornerback Devin Butler will begin anew at Syracuse

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — His last final exam has been taken, his bags are packed for Washington D.C., and Notre Dame cornerback Devin Butler’s next chapter will unfold at Syracuse University, he revealed Thursday.

But he’ll leave ND with both fondness and regret as the senior takes a grad-school-style/no-sitting-out transfer to play his final season with the Orange in 2017. With an ND degree in hand, Butler will enroll at the ACC school next month.

“I want to thank my coaches, my teammates, the fans and all of Notre Dame Nation,” he said, “because they really took me in and really supported me through one of the toughest times in my life.

“I can’t express enough how much that support meant to me and my family.”

Butler was indefinitely suspended by Brian Kelly on Aug. 21, a little more than 24 hours after a late night altercation outside of a South Bend bar led to his arrest and two felony charges.

On Oct. 18, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting law enforcement. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop felony counts of resisting law enforcement and battery.

As part of Butler's plea agreement, the battery charge was dropped altogether, and his sentencing will be delayed one year while he completes a pretrial diversion program.

If Butler succeeds in completing that program, prosecutors agree to dismiss the remaining misdemeanor count of resisting law enforcement. If he fails, the misdemeanor count would stand, and Butler could potentially face a year in jail or prison.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Washington, D.C., product was primarily a reserve his first three seasons at Notre Dame, gaining his first career start in the 2015 regular-season finale at Stanford after starter KeiVarae Russell suffered a season-ending injury.

Butler was in line to start the Jan. 1, 2016 Fiesta Bowl matchup with Ohio State as well, but he suffered a broken foot in practice four days before that game. He finished with 11 tackles in 2015.

Expected to compete for a starting spot in the fall of 2016, Butler rebroke the foot in June and would likely have taken a medical redshirt year. But in the early-morning hours of Aug. 20, everything changed.

“The young cornerbacks played well this season when I couldn’t play,” he said. “And one thing I regretted a lot, because I was suspended, I wasn’t able to be there for those young guys.

“That’s something I pride myself on, is being a big brother figure on the team, whether it’s in a serious manner or keeping things light.”

Butler said he initially considered finishing up his football eligibility at Notre Dame.

“But the more I thought about it, the more I think it was in the best interests for both sides that I move on,” he said. “I looked at Illinois and a couple of the other schools, but Syracuse was the right place.  

“They have an amazing coaching staff, and I’m really excited. It gives me a chance to rewrite my narrative and paint myself back into the picture in the image that I think is true of who I am.”

For people wondering: I will have my degree from Notre Dame this month and do my fifth year of football and grad school at Syracuse

— Devin Butler (@DevinButler_12) December 15, 2016

Extremely honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to come and compete for and get educated by the University of Notre Dame

— Devin Butler (@DevinButler_12) December 15, 2016

My ND coaches, former/current teammates, and fans all showed me what it meant to really become a family and I will never forget that

— Devin Butler (@DevinButler_12) December 15, 2016

Now I'm just focusing my next step in life and I'm ready to make the most out of this opportunity!!

— Devin Butler (@DevinButler_12) December 15, 2016

Notre Dame's Devin Butler (12) celebrates a stop during the Notre Dame-Massachusetts game on Sept. 26, 2015. The senior is set to transfer to Syracuse. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)