Jake Butt renews major rivalries

Jake Butt grew up in Pickerington, Ohio, 30 minutes from The Horseshoe. Saturday afternoons were often spent cheering on Ohio State from the stands as a fan and then as a recruit.

As Butt became one of the Buckeye State's best Class of 2013 prospects as a tight end, it seemed like his dream would come true and Butt would be one of the few players who actually gets to suit up for his childhood favorite.

But the Buckeyes never offered.

However, the Hollywood plot was still salvageable for the ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect. Butt's grandfather, Bob Lally, won two national championships at Notre Dame as an offensive lineman and linebacker in the late 1940s. Butt used to try on his grandfather's championship rings growing up and playing at Notre Dame was also a situation he played out in his head multiple times.

"I always looked up to him and wanted to follow in his footsteps," Butt said.

But the Fighting Irish never offered.

And on Feb. 19, Butt committed to Michigan, which has a bit of a history with both the Buckeyes and Irish.

"That was particularly tough to overcome," said Butt's father, Rob, who attended Cincinnati but is a lifelong Buckeyes fan.

"But once you got over that and started looking at academics and the coaching staffs, the environment and really the needs in the program for a tight end, it just seemed like the perfect alignment for everything. In nearly every category, Michigan was at the top, so it made for a pretty easy decision."

Butt went up for a visit the day before committing, and it was then that he got the sense that Michigan was the right place for him. Wolverines coach Brady Hoke and assistants Al Borges and Dan Ferrigno all spent close to 90 minutes with Butt during his visit.

"We talked football and getting to know the family as well," Butt said. "The level of comfort was there. I didn't make the commitment there, but I came home and slept on it and still had the same feeling in the morning."

Surprisingly, Butt did not receive much resistance from family or friends when he decided to commit to the Wolverines. Butt said the responses were overwhelmingly supportive.

"They said 'we're going to root for Michigan every game but Ohio State.' That's what I expected," Butt said laughing. "My goal now is to convert everybody; convert my whole school."

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Butt looks like a natural tight end and has arguably been Pickerington North's best player since his freshman year -- even while playing on the junior varsity team -- still a sore spot for Butt, who believes he should have played varsity as a freshman. He said he averaged about 130 yards receiving and a touchdown as a freshman and even had 280 yards in one game.

Football was not Butt's first love, though. It wasn't even his second.

"The funny thing is I played soccer my entire life and used to play up [with players] three or four years [older]," Butt said. "I thought I would always go to the MLS -- that was my goal. Then I got taller and wanted to go to the NBA.

"Sixth grade was my first year of football and you don't have many quarterbacks who can pass, so I was playing right tackle and on third-and-long I'd move to tight end," he said. "I was so mad at my dad. I wanted to play soccer."

Rob admits Jake was one of central Ohio's top soccer players, but it became pretty clear even from just those few third-and-long heaves to Butt that the potential of becoming a standout football player was there. He instantly caught the attention of anyone who would come to watch him snatch balls out of the air, even in sixth grade.

"I was leading the Pee Wee league in receiving yards, and some guy said 'take care of those hands, because they're going to be something someday,'" Butt recalled.

He brushed it off at the time because he was a soccer player first, basketball player second and football player third.

And it can be said he was destined for Ohio State first, Notre Dame second and Michigan third, too.

Says Butt, though: "This is the place for me."

Jared Shanker covers Midwest recruiting. He can be reached at jshankerespn@gmail.com.