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SALT LAKE CITY — When Cory Butler-Byrd was 5 years old, his uncle picked him up in his truck and drove him to his first football practice. Butler-Byrd played for the Trojans in Little League, quickly finding he loved the game.
"It made my uncle happy so I was happy," Butler-Byrd said.
He began to pattern his game after Tavon Austin and Jerry Rice, setting a goal to get to the NFL. Transferring from L.A. Harbor to Utah is a step closer to his dream.
The junior was recruited by Utah to play cornerback, but is now listed as the starter for slot receiver. Head coach Kyle Whittingham hasn't ruled out Butler-Byrd playing defense, acknowledging the junior feels naturally comfortable as a corner.
"Wherever we feel he'll help the team most is where he'll end up," Whittingham said.
The 5-foot-9 athlete has experience playing both positions. He caught 42 receptions for 583 yards and seven touchdowns during his freshman season at L.A. Harbor. In 2014 he made 46 tackles, five interceptions, six pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
But he might also contribute to special teams. Butler-Byrd led his junior college in kickoff and punt returns last year. He returned one kickoff for a touchdown and averaged 24.7 yards. His nine punt returns totaled 36 yards.
The Compton native is confident he'll give a boost to his new team — no matter what side of the ball he plays.
I know last year they had Kaelin Clay. It won't be a loss because I'm coming in to replace him. Hopefully, I can fill his shoes. He's a great player.
"They told me I was going to play DB in the beginning, but I figured our defense is stacked," Butler-Byrd said. "I prepared myself to play offense. At home I was practicing both to be prepared for whatever they need me to do."
Butler-Byrd's preparation makes him confident in his ability on the field. In fact, he says his speed and athleticism can help Utah's offense open up the field.
"I know last year they had Kaelin Clay. It won't be a loss because I'm coming in to replace him. Hopefully, I can fill his shoes. He's a great player," he added.
Wherever he plays, Butler-Byrd is excited to be a Ute. He loves Salt Lake City, the fans, coaching staff and team. He thinks Utah's program provides a great opportunity to meet his NFL dream, too. There are currently 30 former Utes in the league.
"The team elevates every year," Butler-Byrd said. "I figured I might as well join."
Perhaps the only downside he sees is Salt Lake City's lack of a Jack in the Box. Butler-Byrd used to eat at the restaurant before every game.
"I've gotta find something else. Or tell my mom to ship me some," he laughed.
A trip to the closest location — Pocatello, Idaho — might be in his future if he's superstitious about keeping his ritual. Butler-Byrd doesn't come off as apprehensive, though. Instead, he says his talent is a gift from God.
So while Whittingham figures out where Butler-Byrd will play come Sept. 3, the transfer is focused on making an impact on the field. Whether it's on offense, defense or special teams, Butler-Byrd seeks to make his family happy — just like that first day of football practice.
Holli Joyce is a University of Utah communications graduate and enjoys keeping up with the Utah Utes, Utah Jazz and Seattle Seahawks. In addition to covering Utah football for KSL.com, she is a Seahawks Correspondent for 12thManRising.com. Follow her on Twitter @Holli_Alexa.