Butler B'Ynote'

Trust Spotlights

Butler B'Ynote'


Butler B'ynote' is a former defensive back who played five years in the NFL. B'ynote' was a part of the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, and Carolina Panthers before becoming a preacher, teacher and coach.

What was your transition like?

It was very up and down because I didn’t leave on my own terms. I got to a point where, emotionally, I couldn’t do it anymore. I was with the Oakland Raiders and ended up getting released – I kind of had an emotional break down. I ended up going back to school at Ohio State to finish my degree, and when I went back it was very difficult for me to even concentrate because I was in a state of depression.

I tried to figure out what I was going to do. In my mind, I had been playing football since I was nine years old and now it’s like ‘Okay, now what? How do I respond? Where do I go from here?’ Because for most of my life everything had been centered around football. I was in a place where I was just trying to find myself.

Getting to the point where you’re at the pinnacle of football, and then to not have it work out the way you wanted it to is really difficult. Again, it was me trying to find myself and reidentify who I was. Now that this is over, who am I?

What have you been doing since leaving the NFL?

I’m preaching, teaching and coaching. I am a pastor at the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, a new upcoming church located in the inner-city of St. Louis. I’m also teaching career leadership development at a local inner-city high school. I was also a head football coach for the last two seasons at Vashon High School, my alma mater in St. Louis. This year I am coaching at Kirkland High School.

I have always had the feeling of being somewhat called and pushed toward the ministry because of my love for people, my compassion for people, and my thirst and hunger for the word of God. With all the different things I went through in the NFL –I always relied on my faith. My faith was the only thing that was consistent.

With all the different things I went through in the NFL – I always relied on my faith. My faith was the only thing that was consistent.

I think throughout the hardships and times where I was humbled – finding myself without a home, going back to my mom’s house – propelled me to get back to what was at my core. Over the years I accepted the call to preach and went through the process of becoming a minister and was later ordained as a reverend.

Was there a defining moment that pulled you to ministry?

I can’t say there was any one defining moment. But I think the course in which my life has taken with the NFL, and all the things I’ve went through in life, helped to steer me in the right direction.

When my playing days were over and I went back to school to complete my degree, I remember sitting in front of what we called the Towers in front of the stadium and crying my eyes out. The one thing I was hearing God say to me was, ‘All this time, I was preparing you to come back to ministry. Football was just a platform and allowed you to do everything your way, but now we are going to do it my way.’ It was so humbling to hear because here I was, 30 years old, back on campus without a home or anywhere to stay.

I came to Columbus, Ohio with a bag of clothes and an air mattress with a hole in it. I had to go back to the beginning and just start over. It was a great time for me to reflect.

People say you’re done playing when the phone stops ringing – it’s true. The lightbulb moment after the phone stops ringing is now the athlete has to be the one to pick up the phone. People are still willing to answer your call, take time to give you advice, share what they’ve learned. The difference is, it’s uncomfortable and uncommon to be the one to do that. In sports, your agent or your business manager is calling for you, getting offers, getting promotions, finding everything for you. It was a lightbulb moment to say, ‘Okay, I have to make the calls and reach out to people.

What would you say to a former player who is in a similar situation?

Get back to the core of who you are. Find out who you are. Whether you played 10 years or two months, when it’s over we all go through the same struggle. For a large part of my life I’ve identified myself as a football player and now I have to be somebody different.

...when it’s over we all go through the same struggle.

What are your values? What are your morals? What are your standards that make you who you are? The game doesn’t make you who you are, it only enhances who you are.

We really didn’t have resources to help us start building those roadmaps before we’re done playing, and I think The Trust has it figured out now. I would tell former players to reach out to The Trust and those who have resources already in place. They can help you find your direction.

The game doesn’t make you who you are, it only enhances who you are.

How did you hear about The Trust?

I heard about The Trust from a couple of different people — Bernard Whittington, who played for the Indianapolis Colts, and Rocket Ismail, who was the first person to tell me about the program.

At first, I had no idea what The Trust was and what it all encompassed. I was just following up on what Rocket had told me. After signing up, I went on the website, saw all of the different resources available and I was like ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ One of the things I was struggling with was anxiety. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The Trust assisted me in getting connected with a therapist, who has been a tremendous help for me.

The Trust has helped me get focused, deal with some of the things I have been holding and suppressing for a very long time, and things that were affecting me both in football and after it. Not playing as long as I wanted, the treatment I felt like I got, the injustices, all of the things I’m now finding out were affecting my life in ways that I didn’t know. The Trust has been a catalyst for working through it all.

In one sentence what has The Trust done for you?

The Trust has helped me get back on track with mental wellness. Without it, you can’t do anything else.

I’m so thankful for Krystal Woods, my Program Specialist at The Trust, and the NFLPA for putting this in place for players like myself. My family and those close to me can see a difference in me. I am so grateful because it was a tough time for me at one point. Now I’m able to relate to players who have struggled with their mental health. I’m just thankful to have been able to get the help I needed because its real, the struggle is real.

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