Never Too Small Never Too Short
By Dr. Greg Shepard
Published: Winter 1996
Out of all the hundreds of articles that I have ever done, this story of Chris Butterfield ranks as one of my favorites. He goes to Humboldt State University, a non-scholarship Divison-II School, and works as hard or harder than any Division-I player. Why? For the love of the game. For the love of his team and coaches. For the fulfillment of putting your whole heart and soul into something and being successful. For the joy of overcoming the odds. Chris Butterfield is a man with a passion for what he does.
Drew Petersen, the strength and conditioning coach at Humboldt State stated, "Chris Butterfield made the NSCA All-American in 1994,1995 and should also make the 1996 team. He was also a 1995 3rd team All-American in football." Chris can Hang Clean 425, Parallel Squat 700 and Bench 440 with a Vertical Jump of 32, 40-yard dash of 4.94 and a T-test of 4.53 seconds at 6'0", 290 pounds."
Chris began lifting as a 5'5", 165-pound 10th grader at Arcata High School on the Northern California coast which is also home to Humboldt State University. He Bench Pressed and Squatted but not parallel. Chris did not do Power Cleans at that time. As a senior, he grew to 5'11", 220 pounds. However, for wrestling, he dropped to 190 pounds and was the county champ and in the top ten in the state. He was the Defensive Player-of-the-Year in his High School league and maintained a 3.5 grade point average. Chris, by August had gone back up to 235 pounds and was ready to play football at Humboldt State.
"I wanted to play football in college," Chris said remembering that time. "I talked to a junior college and some Division-III schools but Coach Whitmire convinced me about Humboldt State and the Division-II non-scholarship football league. My parents live 10 minutes from the Universtiy so I lived at home for the first two years. Humboldt State is a state school and so the in-state tuition was comparatively low."
Humboldt State is listed annually among top education values in the country by publications such as U.S. News & World Report and Money magazine. Humboldt State athletes graduate by use of a computerized monitoring system which tracks an athletes normal academic progress. They also offer counseling and tutoring services in order to maximize their educational opportunities.
Nestled between giant Redwoods and the Pacific Ocean, Humboldt State University is located 275 miles north of San Francisco and has nearly 7,500 students. The University features some of the finest Division-II athletic facilities in the nation. The surrounding area is truly beautiful with ocean beaches, bays, lagoons, marshes and forests. In fact, there are more than 100 parks, 20 tennis courts and 16,000 acres of state parklands.
Chris is considered to be one of the top small college lineman in the nation. In April of 1995 Chris said, "If I wasn't lifting this much, I wouldn't be All-Conference. If I hadn't started in high school, I wouldn't by playing college football. Some people are natural athletes, I've worked for it."
Chris is such a believer in strength and conditioning he is majoring in physical education so he can go into coaching. He also has not ruled out trying to be a graduate assistant as a strength coach. "I talk to Coach Petersen all the time about the scientific principles of strength and conditioning," said Chris. "I want to coach Division-I college football but still be prepared to teach and coach at high school."
On a big lift, Chris tries to get the adrenaline going and get a mental picture. "I lift for football," asserted Chris, "but I really want to be the strongest guy. I can turn the adrenline switch on pretty easy. I don't want to get beat.
"To get pumped for a football game is a little different because there are 5,000 people watching. I like the nervousness. I know that it's supposed to get me going, but in the weight room I've got to do it myself."
Chris isn't just a Bench Press guy or a Power Lifter. He works on every facet of strength and conditioning. Chris stated, "I work on flexibility hard before and after any type of training. Flexibility is an integral part of my total program. Coach Petersen does a great job of teaching me every phase of training. I pride myself on being a complete strength and conditioning athlete. I owe a lot to Coach Petersen."
Chris has been building his strength for years. "I train hard all the time," said Chris with conviction. "I plan my life around my workouts. A lot of people plan their workouts around their life. It's not that hard if you approach it right. I just make sure my workouts are done, then I play. My family and my fiancee, Donna, support my workouts 100 percent. It would be tough to do all this without them. They understand my commitment."
The "President's List" is reserved for those who meet high academic standards. Chris Butterfield made that list. "I try to get it done academically. If you work hard in the classroom or in athletics, then good things will happen.
"I also advise kids to stay away from drugs and alcohol to be successful. Arcata is probably like every other place in that peer pressure does exist. You either fall in or you don't. I didn't. I used my head and good sense. I thought about the consequences.
"In college it is the same thing with my attitude towards drugs. I hang out with the guys on the team. Drugs are not something we choose to do. It's also a lot better if you don't abuse alcohol. Use your head. Think it out first. If you do that first, I believe kids will make the right decision."
Chris believes in himself. He always has and his motto comfirms this: You are never too small or too short. You can accomplish your goals if you just keep at it.
Head Football Coach Fred Whitmire said, "Chris is the type of athlete who makes it so special for us at Humboldt. He sets a great example in the weight room, on the field and in class where he has over a 3.0 grade point average. He is not intimidated by any opponent. He gives us a chance to be successful in any game. And, when we recruit or need a volunteer for community work, Chris is the first one there."
We thank Coach Petersen for making this article possible and wish Chris and Donna the best in their marriage next June. They should have an exciting and prosperous future together.