Detroit Prep Stars Talley, Butler Reunite In Green Bay


Back in mid-April as defensive end Ronald Talley was arriving in Green Bay for a pre-draft visit with the Packers, he was headed to baggage claim at the airport when he bumped into a familiar face.

"It was out of the blue," Talley said of the chance meeting. "I was just getting my bags and all of a sudden I looked up, and I saw somebody I knew. It was cool."

That somebody was tight end Carson Butler, who was on his way out of Green Bay after his own pre-draft visit to Lambeau Field. Talley and Butler had attended the same high school, Renaissance High in Detroit, and kept in touch a bit through college, but neither knew what was in store for the other's football future.

Come to think of it, neither knew what was in store for his own football future at that time, before the draft. It turned out all 32 teams passed on both players in the draft, and those coincidental pre-draft visits to Green Bay resulted in free-agent contracts that have reunited the former Renaissance alums.

The two were both football stars in Detroit, though not at the same time. Talley was a senior at Renaissance when Butler was a sophomore, and at that point, Butler was focusing on basketball and didn't join the football team until the following year, when Talley was redshirting at Notre Dame.

But they knew each other well and likely would have formed quite the tackling tandem on defense - Butler played outside linebacker in addition to tight end in high school - had their prime years overlapped.

"He was just the biggest guy on the field," Butler said of Talley, who's 6-foot-3 and 282 pounds. "He's the same size now that he was in high school. He's always been like a monster to everybody else. He was always a big guy."

The two did play numerous pick-up basketball games together before Talley graduated, and from that Talley figured Butler was headed for prep stardom as well.

"Everybody knew he was a beast," Talley said. "Everybody knew he could play, basically like he was going to be the best guy in that class. He was always a good athlete."

Both players are smaller fish in a much larger pond now, non-drafted free agents trying to crack an NFL roster. It's no easy task, but both players feel they're capable.

Talley is a long-armed defensive end similar in build to sixth-round draft pick Jarius Wynn, with the type of body the coaching staff hopes is suited to play end in the defense's new 3-4 scheme. His college career began at Notre Dame but he transferred and played his final two seasons at Delaware, where he had 14 tackles for loss, including 6½ sacks, in a total of 24 games for the Blue Hens.

Meanwhile, Butler, who switched to defensive end for the second half of last season at Michigan, is back in his comfort zone at tight end. He was the Wolverines' top tight end in 2006 and 2007, posting 39 catches for 412 yards and three TDs those years.

Both got their introduction to the NFL earlier this month during Green Bay's rookie orientation, and they're now back at Lambeau Field for a week of workouts in the team's offseason strength and conditioning program to get ready for organized team activities (OTAs), which begin next week.

"I'm here, ready to work," Talley said after his first day back. "The workout was intense. That's how you like it, and I think it will definitely make me better. I'm just trying to grasp everything (at his position), trying to pick up the techniques. I'm a smart player and I think I can pick it up well."

They both know the more comfortable they can get mentally with everything at this level will help them when they physically take things to the field during OTAs and training camp.

{sportsad300}"I'm just working and learning the plays," Butler said. "I need to catch the ball when it's thrown to me, be able to make that block - basically just show them I can be an every-down tight end and go from there. I'm looking to go into camp and see what I can do against the other players."

Both players acknowledged the adjustment to life in the NFL is a little easier with a familiar face around. During rookie orientation, the two caught up on some old times and partnered up for the nightly card games of spades at the local hotel, ruling the table their fair share.

"We taught a couple players a few lessons," Talley joked.

They haven't re-lived any pick-up basketball yet, but from the sounds of it there's maybe a score to settle. When asked who's the better hoops player, there's a clear difference of opinion.

"Me, of course," Butler said. "I'm the basketball player, for real. I can do a little bit on the court."

Told of Butler's comment, Talley corrected him.

"No, I don't think so," he said. "He's got to take that back."

Still protecting their reputations. Just like high school.

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