Butler fans must think they’re seeing double as No. 5 in black in red is in on special teams, making spectacular catches at receiver, getting a handoff now and then and starring in the Bulldog secondary as a standout defensive back.
But there’s just one player responsible for all of that action: Butler senior jack-of-all-trades Keyon Lesane. And he has the stats to back up his well-deserved moniker.
Last season on mostly a run-first offense, Lesane hauled in 38 receptions for 736 yards, which amounts to nearly 20 yards per catch. He had six receiving touchdowns, ran 32 times for 267 yards and scored four more touchdowns on the ground. Lesane racked up 120 return yards and another score on special teams. Defensively, he totaled 63 tackles and recorded three interceptions and three pass breakups.
So, yeah, he’s a busy guy.
The high school football recruiting website 247sports.com lists Lesane as a 3-star recruit who is ranked within the top 50 players in his class in the state and as an athlete.
To Butler coach Brian Hales, Lesane is an athlete unlike few he has ever seen.
“Keyon’s a tough comparison because he’s such a great athlete,” Hales said. “ I guess his best comparison might be (2016 Butler grad and Presbyterian signee) Dirk Cureton. They play similar positions both offensively and defensively, and they never come off the field. I don’t know if Keyon would admit this, but I think he modeled much of his game off of what he saw from Dirk.
“When we’re working our defense they’re out there, and when we finish, they’re not going to get water like the other guys because they want to get their reps on offense still. They’re just wired that way. They are kind of like sharks because they’re constantly moving and looking for something.”
Lesane said he’s always excelled in anything that involves running. He began this business of playing the entire game as far back as he can remember during his Pop Warner days.
But both Lesane and Hales believe it was his background in another sport, his work ethic and skill that has made the Butler star the player he is today.
“I was a wrestler growing up, and I think that really helped me,” Lesane said. “But it also made me quicker and faster.”
And Lesane didn’t just wrestle. He was good, qualifying for states as a freshman and he likely would have made it again as a sophomore had an injury not have derailed his postseason.
“He was a big-time wrestler since he was 5 or 6 years old,” Hales said. “He went to regional and national events and all of that. So, with that background, I think wrestling develops a certain type of toughness that I don’t know if you can find anywhere, football included.”
Whatever the case, Lesane has turned into a heck of a football player.
This summer, he committed to N.C. State, but this season he finds himself being the best player and leader on a storied Butler program that year after year pushes out a flood of next-level talent.
And it’s a role the soft-spoken Lesane isn’t taking lightly.
“It’s a great position to be in, and especially on this team,” he said. “I want to be a leader for these guys and get them on the same track that I’m on. I want to show them the way and be a leader.”
Hales said he’s definitely noticed a difference in how Lesane has gone from a mostly quiet and shy freshman to one of the best players in the state.
“He’s sort of a quiet kid,” Hales said. “He doesn’t talk too much and you don’t hear too much about him, but he’s definitely a kid that lets his actions speak. He doesn’t get easily influenced by outside stuff. He’s got his goals in mind for what he wants to accomplish and he’s not going to let anyone get him away from that. But the thing that really separates him is he’s an extremely hard worker and he does it everywhere. It’s not just on the practice field, but it’s in the classroom and in the weight room.”
This season, Lesane said he wants to erase the memory of last year’s 8-3 season. For most programs that would be a great season. For Lesane and the Bulldogs, it broke a string of 12 consecutive seasons where they won at least 10 games.
“We should have won that (Myers Park playoff loss) and we’re going to come back this year way stronger,” Lesane said. “Butler has always been good, and we will be again this year, but we’re tired of being underrated and disrespected. We have some get back and we have something for everyone this year.
“My goal is to make myself around me and make everyone better. I’m showing some of the young guys the ropes, but I’m also learning from them. I learn stuff from everybody. Our team goal is we’re focused on a championship and bringing it back to Matthews. We’re going to beat everybody one game at a time and show everybody that we are the dominant team.”