AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State lost star wide receiver Hakeem Butler to the NFL a year earlier than expected.
Graduate transfer La'Michael Pettway joined the Cyclones in hopes of joining Butler in the pros in 2020.
The 6-foot-3 Pettway led Arkansas in catches a season ago, and he will be counted on to help replace the 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns piled up by Butler last year. For Pettway, it's an opportunity that he hopes will get him on the radar of NFL scouts — assuming he earns a starting job as expected Iowa State (8-5 in 2018) opens the season Aug. 31 against Northern Iowa.
"He's strong. He's fast. He can do a lot of things from the slot and the outside," sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy said. "We're excited to have him here."
No one expects Pettway to become the next Butler, a 6-foot-6 matchup nightmare who averaged 22 yards a catch in 2018. But if Pettway can supplement established starters Deshaunte Jones and Tarique Milton while providing experience and stability for Iowa State's younger receivers, Purdy should have plenty of options.
"La'Michael brings a ton of experience playing in big games, playing in big situations," offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. "But also, he brings a humbleness about himself and, really, a maturity about himself."
Pettway grew up playing football, basketball, baseball and track in tiny Nashville, Arkansas, and despite offers from Alabama and other SEC schools he stayed home with the Razorbacks.
Pettway's career got off to a slow start. Though he saw time as a true freshman, Pettway had just one catch in 2016 and six in 2017. He had a team-high 30 last year on a bad team.
Arkansas fired Bret Bielema after Pettway's sophomore season and replaced him with Chad Morris. A rebuild was inevitable, and the Razorbacks struggled to a 2-10 record in 2018 even while Pettway was putting up respectable numbers.
He had 499 yards receiving, and a catch of at least 30 yards in seven different games. But with Arkansas unsettled at quarterback, Pettway sought to use his final year of eligibility at a place with an established signal caller like Purdy, who went 6-1 against Big 12 opponents as a freshman.
Pettway also visited Auburn, Oklahoma State and North Carolina, and he canceled a visit to Oklahoma after committing to the Cyclones.
"I felt like I had a great opportunity," Pettway said. Butler "was a key part of their offense."
Pettway said he and Purdy have already made a strong connection on and off the field, with the two running through routes and plays this summer. And though Iowa State won't try to shoehorn Pettway into the vertical role that Butler manned so successfully, Pettway's size and speed should put him in position to thrive.
"It always great to have a big body (at receiver), especially on the outside where you can get mismatches and stuff like that," Purdy said. "Him coming in, with Hakeem gone, I think he'll do a great job. He's his own player. He's not going to try and be Hakeem or anything like that."