EL DORADO — They have decorated the walls of the Ramon and Betty Criss Football Complex with their accomplishments, so numerous and so grand that they fill the space with ease.
The stories from the Butler Community College football team's six national titles are told on these walls.
But one wall — one very important wall in the main lobby — remains bare.
That is where they will honor their very best; Rudi Johnson, Austin Panter and Markus White. All NJCAA national players of the year.
Thursday night, Butler coach Troy Morrell pointed at the empty spot on the wall and said that soon enough, there would be another.
"That's where we're going to put all the pictures from our national players of the year... that's where we'll put your picture, Tank," Morrell said to Butler defensive end Cornellius Carradine. "You'll be right there with the very best players to ever come to Butler."
Carradine, a 6-foot-5, 257-pound sophomore, is the top junior-college prospect in the nation. He has already been named the Defensive Player of the Year in the Jayhawk Conference thanks to his 109 tackles and 16 sacks — both league bests. He has led the top-ranked Grizzlies (11-0) into today's national title game against No. 2 Navarro (10-1) in the Citizens Bank Bowl at Pittsburg.
"Since the end of his freshman year, when we lost to Fort Scott in the final game, his sole focus has been on getting this team to this point," Butler defensive coordinator Tim Schaffner said of Carradine. "When we have discussions, it's about what we have to do to win... he is gifted, he is motivated and he has the mindset of an overachiever. You put all that stuff together and that's a dangerous thing."
Carradine has routinely been at his best in the Grizzlies' biggest games this season.
In the season-opener against Navarro, Carradine had nine tackles and 3.5 sacks in a 16-10 win at Cessna Stadium.
When the Grizzlies traveled to No. 3 Coffeyville on Oct. 16, Carradine's 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown gave Butler the lead after digging a 12-0 hole to start the game. His 11 tackles and three sacks did the rest in a 38-26 win.
"Against Coffeyville, there was a play where he had four guys trying to block him and he went right through the middle of them and got to the quarterback," said Butler's other defensive end, Ian Knight. "He's just so fast. Everything he does on the field is a split-second ahead of everybody else."
Carradine had 11 tackles and two sacks the next week in a 28-0 win over No. 2 Hutchinson, and then posted 10 tackles and one sack in the Region VI title game, a 48-0 rout of the Blue Dragons.
"You see what he's done and you understand why he's so wanted right now," Morrell said. "And I think he is so humble, so down-to-earth, that it kind of overwhelms him that all of these schools want him."
Carradine has received scholarship offers from, among others, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida State, Georgia, Kansas State, Tennessee and, most importantly, Ohio State, just an hour-and-a-half drive from his hometown of Cincinnati. His mother, uncle, brothers and sisters have made the trip to Pittsburg to watch him play today.
He is also on track to finish school Wednesday, in just three semesters, and start the winter semester at whatever four-year school he chooses.
"All of my focus has been on the national title game, and I feel like it'd be selfish of me to be thinking about what school I'm going to go to with so much on the line for all of us," Carradine said. "After the season is over, I'll get together with the coaches and we'll figure all that out. Right now, my focus is completely on the game.
"The idea of winning a title is the motivation for our team. We feel like we can do it, together."