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Ex-Nevada standout James Butler discusses decision to sign with CFL team

James Butler
James Butler of the Houston Roughnecks poses for a picture on the sidelines during the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Vipers at Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 22 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

James Butler is headed north of the border for the 2021 football season. The former Nevada running back has signed a contract with the BC Lions. He most recently played for the XFL's Houston Roughnecks before the league folded due to the pandemic.

“I think it’s a great opportunity," Butler said on Friday's NSN Daily. "I really love Vancouver. My roommate (at Nevada) was Malcolm Lee. He was from Vancouver. I’ve been there a couple of times and love the city of Vancouver. I want to kind of get the rust off from my last time in the CFL. Last time I was there, I still have bad nightmares from my time up there. Talking to (former Nevada teammate) Don (Jackson) and a couple of my friends who went up there and played and did their thing, I thought it was a great opportunity.”

Butler signed with the CFL's Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2019 but was cut before the season began. He also had a couple of stints with the NFL's Raiders without making the team's 53-man regular-season roster. Butler found success with the XFL's Roughnecks last year, accounting for 263 yards and five touchdowns in the league's inaugural season, which was ended prematurely due to COVID-19. Instead of waiting for the XFL;s planned restart in 2022, Butler opted to sign with a CFL team for the upcoming season.

“To be able to play this year has been the biggest goal," Butler said. "I just wanted the best opportunity to go out and play and be a difference-maker.”

Butler, who has recently got into podcasting, said he's focusing on playing football for as long as he can. He'll join former Nevada teammate Cody Fajardo and Don Jackson in the CFL.

“It’s a privilege to be able to put that uniform on, that helmet on, to be able to play a game as a job and be in front of all those fans," Butler said. "It’s amazing. Just to be able to chase the dream. I tell people all the time, I feel like I’ve been ducking and dodging the real world for a couple years now, and I’m going to keep ducking and dodging until somebody tells me to stop. It’s been amazing. Being around different guys who are players and athletes and see how they look up to me and what I’ve done, for me, I feel like I could do so much more, but they wish they could be signed with a Canadian team or sign in the XFL or in the NFL. I’m going to continue to chase this dream as long as I can.”

Butler said his time with the Roughnecks rejuvenated him as it was one of the most fun experiences of his football career. The league was recently purchased by actor Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who plans on restarting the league in 2022.

“Whenever anybody asks me about Houston, I get a big smile on my face because it’s the most fun I’ve had playing since my sophomore year at Nevada," Butler said. "I loved the city of Houston. The XFL did a great job taking care of the players. I’m excited for The Rock to bring that back. I think he’s going to do a great job. Him and Dany Garcia, she’ll do a great job as the first female owner of a league."

Butler has focused on content creation during the pandemic and recently started a podcast called "Kickin It Wit JB," which debuts new episodes every Wednesday. Butler, who played for Nevada from 2013-15 before transferring to Iowa for his senior season, plans on having some of his former Wolf Pack teammates on as guests.

“I started this podcast because I’ve always wanted to come out of the helmet," Butler said. "'Kicking it with JB’ is me having extraordinary conversations with as many brave people as I can about a variety of podcasts. I could have just made a sports podcast and done that, but I wanted to make it more than just a sports podcast. I wanted to help and serve somebody. That’s been my biggest goal to try and find my purpose outside of the game of football.”

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