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Behind the Balance: Devin Butler ’24 — Keydet Basketball

Virginia Military Institute’s cadet-athletes have to juggle cadet life, heavy academic course loads, and their NCAA Division I sport. Committed to both academic and athletic pursuits, balancing their rigorous schedule in both sports and school requires a certain level of commitment and discipline. Behind the Balance is a series that focuses on those cadet-athletes and how they handle the hurdles of the day-to-day.  

LEXINGTON, Va. Feb. 27, 2024 — Devin Butler ’24 doesn’t remember a time when there wasn’t a basketball in his hands. He may not have been able to dribble it as a baby, but it was there.  

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a basketball,” the English major said.  Devin Bulter, a basketball player at VMI, talks about his experience as a cadet student and athlete.

His father was a basketball player, then his brother grew up loving it. Once Butler was born, he said his brother was determined to make him a teammate. So, by the time he could walk, he could dribble a ball.  

While attending The Phelps School outside Philadelphia for high school, Butler wasn’t too interested in attending a military college like Virginia Military Institute. Coaches from VMI had been reaching out to his high school coaches, but he didn’t bite.  

“After the visit I could see how connected the people were here, especially the team,” he said. “It was totally different from any other visit I did. I had no question about it, I chose VMI.” 

This semester — his final one — he’s at 12 credits. Although it’s a lighter load than other semesters, he still has booked days throughout the week.  

Cadet-athletes at VMI not only have their responsibilities with their selected sport but cadet duties on top of that.  Cadets are also required to take physical fitness classes twice a week, participate in ROTC all four years, prepare for room and uniform inspections, practice for parade, guard duty, and more. 

“It does get tough here because of the military aspect of the school, along with academics and basketball,” he said. “I try to find time to pray and center myself religiously, and then to meditate to really be in tune with myself and appreciate all the madness that comes along. Because school is being paid for; I'm totally blessed. I couldn't have it any better. So sometimes I need to just take time to stop and appreciate that and live in the moment really.” 

Getting up at 6 a.m. daily to hit the weight room by 6:20 a.m. is the norm for Butler. From there, it’s breakfast and onto classes. By noon, he’s got a break where he can grab lunch to-go from Crozet, take a quick nap, then back to classes until about 2 p.m. From there, he’ll head back to the weight room for an hour, then do some skill work for almost an hour before practice starts at 4 p.m. Then it’s on to dinner and back to barracks. He’s usually doing schoolwork a bit at night but has been keeping up with studies during his regular day.  

He said being on the basketball team really helps with any stress the day brings. 

But now, he’s more nostalgic. Finishing up his last semester, he feels like he can look back and appreciate the trials and tribulations he endured at VMI because it allowed him to become the leader he is now. 

Devin Bulter, a basketball player at VMI, talks about his experience as a cadet student and athlete.“Now that I'm a 1st Class cadet, I can sit back and appreciate what the school has done for me, how much it has allowed and helped me to grow,” he said. "I've become a better leader. This team, this environment has kind of just sprang me into the leader I want to be when I leave here.” 

VMI has helped Butler’s confidence tremendously, he said. From starting as a rat, breaking out and becoming a 4th Class cadet, to receiving rings, and heading for matriculation. 

"All the things that you have to go through here ... you have to find when everybody in the world tells you that you're nothing, you have to find within yourself to say no, I am something,” he said. “So that was kind of my thing throughout the Ratline. I was like, it’s not going to break me. I know I'm worth something. Then as the years have gone by, I've seen that resiliency grow. And no matter the issue, no matter the challenge that VMI has thrown me, I've been able to kind of take it on.” 

That dedication and resiliency is something he can take with him outside of VMI. After graduating, he plans on attending graduate school.  

"That battle helped me to spring past my peers, because I'll be able to take the adversity that life throws at you and know how to handle it,” he said.  

Laura Peters Shapiro
Communications & Marketing
VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE 

VMI: Forging 21st Century Leaders