State Colleges

Butler finds matching set of safeties close to home

The moment a player signs a football scholarship at Butler Community College, there are expectations.

Before he steps on the practice field or plays in a game, there is a standard for him to live up to.

And, like any future title the Grizzlies’ hope to win, that standard exists only as an idea … although some would argue it is as permanent as any of the trophies in the lobby at the Hubbard Sports Complex.

“We want guys that want to be great,” Butler defensive coordinator Tim Schaffner said. “The challenge is to go out and find them in the recruiting process. We’re not here to motivate or inspire, we want guys that already have that in them.”

In starting safeties Max Martinez and Tate Omli, No. 3 Butler (5-0 overall, 4-0 Jayhawk Conference) found two players that fit the mold.

The Grizzlies play Air Force Prep (0-4) on Saturday in El Dorado.

Omli, 5-foot-10 and 203 pounds, has 32 tackles and one interception. Martinez, 5-8 and 177, has 23 tackles and one interception. He’s also scored two touchdowns, on an interception return against Dodge City and a blocked field goal return against Fort Scott.

“They understand what this is all about, the entire process,” Schaffner said. “They want to be great, they want to be pushed. And they’re both natural leaders.”

Omli and Martinez bonded as freshmen last year, while Martinez was still playing cornerback.

“Tate is a good dude, a good old-fashioned country boy,” Martinez said. “He’s humble, and he does the work. Our relationship started to develop once we got here and we’ve built on it and we established a friendship.

“We’re both just a couple of Kansas boys, a couple of in-state kids trying to make it big.”

Omli was raised in Brookville, and was a star at Ell-Saline High. Schaffner, working on some bad information, actually offered Omli a scholarship before his junior year of high school, when Schaffner thought he was going to be a senior.

In the end, it didn’t matter.

“I just love this place, I love how high the expectations are here,” Omli said. “The level of competition is so high and there are so many talented players. That’s the environment I want to be in.”

Martinez, an All-Metro selection for Bishop Carroll in 2010, earned a reputation for making big plays in high school., but Schaffner wasn’t sure how his style of play would translate to the next level.

“Max plays the game so violently and for a relatively little guy, I didn’t know if he could continue with that at this level,” Schaffner said. “But when (Butler defensive backs coach Jordan Abbott) suggested we move him back to safety in the spring, it was a great move. It fit just like putting on a pair of old shoes.”

In a league where the skill positions are traditionally dominated by out-of-state players, Omli and Martinez will always be anomalies.

Just don’t tell that to Schaffner.

“We really pride ourselves at Butler on recruiting kids that are in-state, Division I players that get overlooked,” Schaffner said. “We played with Kansas boys at defensive backs last year and they ended up at Alabama-Birmingham, Kansas State and South Dakota.

“We find those kids, like Tate and Max, and then we build the rest of our personnel around them.”