A team captain in 2013, Butler is the quarterback of the defense, responsible for making the on-field calls and getting the unit lined up properly. He also bore the added responsibility of grooming fellow inside linebacker and rookie Manti Te’o in 2013 and he was successful in both endeavors. Butler finished the year second on the team with 99 tackles, one shy of a second-career 100-tackle season, while he and Te’o combined for 192 stops in 2013. Butler had perhaps his biggest game at the end of the year when he racked up 13 tackles, including two for loss, in the Bolts’ Dec. 29 win over Kansas City that put the team into the NFL Playoffs.
The Chargers have long envisioned a bright future for the former Washington Husky and Fair Oaks, Calif. native. In 2010, the team made a trade with San Francisco to move up 12 spots and select Butler. His rookie season, however, was quickly derailed when he was sidelined for the year by a torn left Achilles tendon that occurred during a training camp practice. Instead of playing and vying for all-rookie honors, Butler spent 2010 rehabilitating, and when 2011 arrived, the door of opportunity swung wide open. Butler paid close attention and took copious notes from veteran inside linebacker Takeo Spikes, who had signed as a free agent that July. The two ended up starting side-by-side and Butler’s repaired Achilles held up as he and Spikes ranked 1-2 on the team in tackles with 119 and 102, respectively. By the time the ’11 season concluded, Butler had started all 16 games and he was the only Chargers defender to hang a number in every statistical defensive category.
Butler studied construction management at Washington. His mom, Janet Rice, is a single parent who works for the Oakland (Calif.) Housing Authority. Her career path is what spurred an interest in Donald in the business side of construction. For two years while he was in college, he interned with the Walsh Construction Co. in Tacoma, Wash.