Former Wolf Pack running back, James Butler, made his debut for the XFL’s Houston Roughnecks over the weekend when they played the Los Angeles Wildcats.
The 5-foot-9 Bloomington, Ill. native played for the Wolf Pack from 2014-16 before transferring to Iowa for the 2017 season. In his three seasons with the Pack, Butler rushed for over 3,300 yards and scampered for 27 touchdowns.
In his debut game for the Roughnecks, Butler impressed not only with his rushing ability, but his special team prowess.
Butler had multiple opportunities as a returner throughout the afternoon, proving to be dangerous from deep. He advanced the first kickoff from deep in his own territory—the six-yard line—and scurried up to the 39-yard line before being taken down.
Butler’s next two attempts proved to be effective, but they failed to provide that same type of spark that the first two had offered.
To close out the half, Butler was given one more opportunity on special teams. With just under two minutes left to play in the half, Butler attempted to recover the ball at his own eight-yard line. Butler was unable to secure the catch, as it rolled off his hands and up the field. However, Butler was able to recover the ball in stride and advance up the field until he was brought down at the Los Angeles 39-yard line.
This was his last kickoff return of the afternoon.
Although Butler flashed on special teams, this wasn’t the only place he was given room to shine. Butler started the game at running back for the Roughnecks, picking up 30 yards on the ground over nine attempts.
Butler also proved dangerous in the passing game, hauling in a touchdown pass from 16-yards out, off the arm of quarterback PJ Walker.
Time will tell if Butler continues to get opportunities to prove his worth for the Roughnecks. The next opportunity Butler will get will be when the Roughnecks host the St. Louis Battlehawks on Feb. 16 in Houston, Tex.
Ryan Freeberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SagebrushSports.