Four years ago Joshua Butcher drove from Edmonton to Saskatoon, the day after his last final exam at the University of Alberta, to tryout for the Huskies’ football team as a walk-on.
This month the College of Medicine student was named to the Capital One Academic All-America College Division Football Team – only the third time a U of S student has been named to an Academic All-American Team.
“I came here as a walk-on – I wasn’t initially recruited,” Butcher, who is an offensive lineman with the Huskies, said. “I was asked to come tryout and was told I probably wouldn’t make the team. I figured I had nothing to lose. So I came, had a great camp, and they decided to keep me around.”
Butcher, who graduated from the kinesiology program in 2013 with a 4.0 GPA, is now balancing his football career with the Huskies and his medicine studies. But he feels that the drive that pushed him into studying medicine is reflected in the competitive nature of football.
“The thing about me, and a lot of the people who are accepted into medicine, is we have this inclination to challenge ourselves,” Butcher explained. “And the way I viewed medicine is it’s one of the best colleges you could get into. It’s such a massive competition and I love competition.
“I like to push myself, challenge myself and if it’s something you really want it’s probably worth working for.”
But while football is an intrinsic part of Butcher’s life now, it wasn’t a sport that he was pushed into as a child – in fact quite the opposite occurred. His father, Dan Butcher, played two seasons in the 80s with the Edmonton Eskimos before a series of injuries took him off the field. While his father continued to coach football, and Butcher found himself often watching from the sidelines, he wasn’t encouraged to play.
“When I was young he had a huge impact on me,” said Butcher. “And obviously I looked up to him and thought the fact that he played for the Eskimos was super cool. So I think he definitely piqued my interest.”
And now, years later, Butcher plays the same position his father did before him. And while his play on the gridiron continues to garner attention, off the field he’s working towards finding a specialty and has settled into life in Saskatoon.
“When I moved here there were a few people I knew, I was essentially moving here alone,” Butcher said. “The team took me in and I made a whole new life here in Saskatoon - and it kind of stemmed through everybody I met here through football.
Photo courtesy of Josh Schaefer
“Just going to the club house every day and having my buddies there is the best - when I’m done football I think that’s probably what I’ll miss the most.”
The Academic All-American Football Team honours students from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, Canadian and two-year institutions, and this year includes only one other Canadian, Andrew Buckley, a kinesiology student at the University of Calgary.