Butler and Jelks Draft

Desert Vista’s Jalen Jelks (left) was drafted in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Mountain Pointe’s Emmanuel Butler (right) signed as an undrafted free agent with the New Orleans Saints.

A pair of Ahwatukee natives were presented with the opportunity of a lifetime on Sunday, as Jalen Jelks and Emmanuel Butler will both enter training camp with NFL teams.

Jelks, a 2014 graduate of Desert Vista, was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Butler, who graduated from Mountain Pointe in 2014, announced via his Instagram Saturday that he had signed with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent.

Jelks was one of the most versatile defensive ends in the nation as a senior for the Thunder. Rated as a three-star prospect by 247Sports, Jelks recorded 72 total tackles his senior year, 12 of which for a loss.

The 6-foot-5, 256-pounder signed with the University of Oregon after his senior season. After redshirting his freshman year, Jelks appeared in 44 total games for the Ducks – 25 of which he started – recording 156 total tackles with 29.5 for loss and 15 sacks.

He was named to the Coaches Pac-12 All-Conference first team as a senior and was on the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list, awarded to the best defensive player in college football.

"There is so much to like about this guy," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said during his post-draft press conference. "He's big, he’s long, he’s athletic, he plays with a relentless spirit, great motor, great energy, around the ball a lot. He plays the right way and has a lot of the traits we are looking for in our defensive linemen."

Butler waited nearly three days to learn whether or not he would have a shot at making an NFL roster. But he’s used to having an underdog mentality.

Rated as a two-star wide receiver in high school, Butler’s only offer was from Northern Arizona University. But he immediately made an impact for the Lumberjacks.

The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder caught 187 passes for 3,217 yards and 33 touchdowns in 45 games at NAU. His senior season was limited to just two games after he suffered a dislocated shoulder and partially torn labrum. He elected to return for a fifth season at NAU.

Butler took part in Arizona State University’s Pro Day in March, where he worked out in front of more than 25 NFL scouts and ran a reported 4.48-second 40-yard dash. He was hopeful at the time that he had shown enough to hear his name called during the three-day draft, but still gets an opportunity with the Saints to prove himself.

Something he has done all his life.

“I devoted my time and all of my effort into becoming the best football player I could become,” Butler said in March. “Hopefully they love me for me, and hopefully I can help some of these guys win a few football games next year.”

Have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at zalvira@timespublications.com and follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira.

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