When Keith Butts graduated from Delaware Hayes in 2011, he knew he’d be back.
“It’s kind of funny … it’s been my goal since sixth grade to be a teacher and coach at Hayes,” he said. “It’s something my best friend Troy Decker (a teacher and coach at Dempsey) and I said to each other back then.”
Now, as the school’s APEX instructor and an assistant coach for the Pacers’ boys basketball and football teams, Butts can start working toward another goal.
“I was lucky enough to be on Coach (Scott) Wetzel’s staff when he was at Westerville North,” Butts said. “When he got the job here in Delaware he asked if I would come. I was also lucky because they had a teaching position open … it was a no-brainer for me.
“Those two things brought me back to Hayes.”
Hayes boys basketball coach Jordan Blackburn, who had Butts as both a player and student, knew he’d be back as well.
“When I handed him his diploma in 2011 I said, ‘This isn’t the last I will be seeing of you. You will be back and I can’t wait for it,’” Blackburn said. “It’s kind of cool he’s gone from one of my students to one of my student-athletes, then to one of my close friends and one of my co-workers and coaches.”
Butts used the word luck, as if he fell into the position he’s in by chance. Blackburn, though, said he got to where he is through hard work.
“He played linebacker and D-line at Tiffin on a full ride because he is tough … and he’s instilling that same toughness into our basketball and football kids on a daily basis,” he said. “He was and always will be a team-first guy and, now that he’s at Hayes, I see him as a kid magnet. He is going to be Coach Wetzel’s son-in-law soon and has been like a son to me for a long time.”
Butts echoed the sentiment, saying Blackburn and Wetzel are like fathers to him.
“One day early on he said, ‘It’s so cool to be back teaching and coaching with my two dads,’” Blackburn said. “Hayes means so much to him and he is helping us way more than we are him.”
Butts said Blackburn had as much to do with developing his work ethic as anyone.
“He taught me that in order to succeed, you have to work hard … and there’s no substitute for hard work,” he said. “He’s taught me how to overcome adversity, which is something everyone is going to face, and he has a great way of relating everything back to real-life situations.”
He credited Wetzel, meanwhile, with teaching him to pay attention to the details.
“He taught me that little things matter,” Butts said. “He taught me there’s a certain way to do things … if you do all the little things right, everything will fall into place the way it should. Just like Coach Blackburn, he’s old-school … with hard work you can achieve anything.”
Now that Butts has achieved his goal of becoming a coach and teacher at Hayes, he just has to adjust to being on the other side of the huddle.
“It’s kind of funny … during our first practice Coach Blackburn said ‘everyone on the line’ and I started walking toward the line (to run),” Butts said. “I had to tell myself I didn’t have to do that.”