Latrobe's Austin Butler named Tribune-Review Boys Athlete of the Year
The late, great Arnold Palmer is the most famous athlete to come out of Latrobe High School — Class of 1947. No arguments there.
But perhaps the best all-around athlete to hail from the school graduated 70 years later, in the Class of 2017.
If the criteria is performance in multiple sports, Austin Butler just might be the king. OK, the prince.
The school's all-time boys basketball scorer also was a dual-threat quarterback in football, and a PIAA qualifier in the javelin during track and field season. A Holy Cross basketball recruit, Butler still is making his long-time mark. But for his efforts at the prep level, he is the Tribune-Review Boys Athlete of the Year.
Greensburg Central Catholic's Neal McDermott also was considered.
“It is rare to have an athlete that can not only participate in three sports, but excel in them,” Latrobe athletic director Mark Mears said. “He is certainly a very special athlete, and a very respectful and classy young man. Holy Cross landed a good one.”
The 6-foot-4 Butler scored 1,905 points in basketball, averaging a WPIAL-best 30 points as a senior, to go with 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals. He was known for pulling up from long range, sometimes just inside the half-court line.
Latrobe reached the WPIAL quarterfinals and PIAA first round in Class 6A. Butler was the Tribune-Review's Player of the Year.
In football, the strong-armed Butler passed for 1,285 yards and 10 touchdowns, leading the Wildcats to a 63-6 win over Connellsville in Week 9 to snap a 25-game losing streak.
In the spring, Butler placed second in the WPIAL in the javelin, a year after finishing third. He also was sixth at the PIAA meet.
He also tried the shot put and, like the javelin, found instant distance, sans a true technique.
“Austin's leadership has helped our athletics,” Mears said. “He has shown you can play three sports, contribute in each in a different way, and still go on to college and participate in your (main) sport without issues.”
Butler, who is in Worcester, Mass., as an early enrollee at Holy Cross, where he is continuing his basketball career, took some time for a post-prep career Q&A:
What sport did you enjoy playing the most?
Basketball, because I was with my best friends every day, and they are family to me.
If you could have one play back in each sport you played, what would they be?
In basketball, the play in the WPIAL semifinals my junior year when I missed a shot at the buzzer down one (point) against Pine-Richland to go to the WPIAL championship; Football: the play against Chartiers Valley when we went for two for the win and didn't get it; And in track, I wish I would have thrown a 200 (feet) in the state championship.
How tough was it to shift gears going from one sport to the next?
It wasn't hard because I've been used to doing it my whole life. It was natural for me.
Where did the confidence come from to shoot from anywhere on the basketball court?
Just reps in the gym and all the practice I put into my shot. Me and coach (Brad) Wetzel had confidence in my range, so I had the green light from anywhere.
How did you compete in the javelin without a true technique?
Just having a strong arm and upper body helped me chuck the thing pretty good (laugh).
You were a pretty good baseball player growing up. Do you regret not playing varsity baseball after the team won WPIAL and PIAA championships?
I wish I could have been part of it, but I'm proud of my guys for accomplishing what they did. They didn't need me. They were one heck of a ball team.
How did you pick up baseball again so fast, in Legion?
Baseball was just like riding a bike. I've played my whole life, and it's just fun and relaxing for me without any pressure. I just went out there and swung the bat and threw the ball with no worries.
Did you like competing in more events in track and field?
Yes. Competing in four events was fun to just use my athleticism and compete with some of the best track athletes in the WPIAL.
Any regrets from any of your three sports?
No regrets. I gave my all in every sport I played day in and day out.
What advice do you have for up-and-coming athletes who want to do more than one sport?
More than one sport will never hurt anyone. Every sport can help you in every aspect of your other sports even if it doesn't seem like it.