Jase Butorac had it all figured out. By the age of 25, he’d be putting that Eastern Washington marketing degree to good use and making a little money.
In an air-conditioned office, of course.
But there he was a week ago, celebrating his 25th birthday on a sun-baked field in Cheney by doing what he loves most: teaching the next generation of Eagles offensive linemen.
Looking back now, the decision was easy. However, 2 ½ years ago, Butorac was facing some tough decisions about his future.
His playing career was finished, but the former Eagles center had some nagging doubts even as he earned the final credits for his bachelor’s degree in the early months of 2015.
Did he really want to go into the corporate world? And were those days in the trenches with O-line coach Aaron Best really that much fun?
The internal debate raged for weeks, but “halfway through winter quarter, I had to ask myself, “OK, what do you really love?’ ” Butorac said.
His parents asked him the same question, and Butorac decided to reach out to his old coach. Best was thinking the same thing, and by the time spring ball rolled around, Butorac was working as a strength and conditioning coach.
Testing the waters, Butorac split his time between the football field and the classroom as he also pursued an MBA.
“It was crazy; I was busier than I was as a player,” said Butorac, who was re-committed to football by the fall of 2015.
That faith was tested last winter when the coaching carrousel swept into Cheney and picked up most of the Eagles’ offensive staff.
But even before Beau Baldwin was hired away by Cal, Butorac was prepared for a possible change.
“I didn’t want to be an intern forever, and I was thinking about exploring some (assistant) opportunities out there,” said Butorac.
Meanwhile, Best was promoted to head coach during the heart of the recruiting season.
Filling the staff – including hiring his replacement – would have to wait, leaving Butorac in limbo. He took heart from Baldwin’s hiring of former player Nick Edwards as receivers coach at the same young age.
Would lightning strike twice?
“I just tried to work hard and do everything I could,” Butorac said.
Best did his due diligence during the hiring process, but kept coming back to Butorac’s overachieving nature.
All Butorac did was win; two Washington state titles at Skyline and three Big Sky Conference rings as with the Eagles. Injuries kept him off the field more than he liked, but they also planted another seed.
“He’s put in his time in the training room and in the classroom, and he understands what EKG (Eagle Kinda Guy) is, because he is one of those guys,” Best said.
“He’s a true overachiever,” said Best, who promoted Butorac just in time for spring ball.
“Of course, there were some things 17 years ago that I didn’t know, so I still have to help him at times,” Best said with a smile.
Butorac knows that too.
“We talk every day. He (Best) sits in on meetings every day, but he’s not micromanaging. I feel like every practice, I get better too, because I’m still learning from the best.”
Now Butorac has the best of both worlds. He leads an O-line group reflects himself, a young unit that overachieved last year.
Says lineman Chris Schlichting, “It was an easy transition – he obviously knows what he’s doing.”
Butorac is only a few years older than his players, but says that’s not an issue.
“It’s not like ‘he’s a just a buddy,’ no there’s respect there, and it started from when I was a player. I’ve been through it, all the hard work,” Butorac said.
More hard work lies ahead.
“I never want to believe that I’m a finished product, as a player and especially a coach, and for that I can thank coach Best. “He doesn’t want goodness, he wants greatness.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.