Akrum Wadley won’t be the only 1,000-yard rusher wearing an Iowa football uniform this fall.
James Butler, 5-foot-9, 210-pound running back who topped that plateau in each of the past two seasons for Nevada, announced plans Tuesday to join the Hawkeyes for the upcoming season as a graduate transfer.
A Wheaton, Illinois, native, Butler rose to the eighth spot on the Wolf Pack’s career rushing charts after gaining 1,336 yards on 260 carries last season and he was expected to be more involved in the passing game this fall as a senior after catching 37 passes for 381 yards last fall.
Butler earned a degree in communication studies from Nevada in May, giving him an opportunity to enroll elsewhere and compete immediately this fall as a graduate transfer.
He announced his decision to do just that on Twitter, citing a desire to complete his career closer to his family.
Butler thanked Nevada fans and coaches “for taking a young kid from the Midwest and treating me like I am one of your own,’’ saying he was extremely grateful for the support he received since arriving on campus in the fall of 2014.
“With my hard work and dedication in the classroom, I’ve graduated within three years. I have decided to spend my last year of eligibility closer to home in front of my mother/family and attend the University of Iowa,’’ Butler wrote.
“This decision has not been an easy one to make, but one that I felt is best for my family and I. I will also be battle born and battle ready and a proud alumnus of the University of Nevada.’’
Butler was one of three true freshmen to see action for the Wolf Pack in 2014, one year after he rushed for 1,185 yards and earned first-team all-state honors at Wheaton St. Francis High School and eventually selected Nevada over Purdue, Indiana and Temple.
He also competed as a sophomore at Bartlett High School in suburban Chicago, where he ran for 933 yards in 2011.
At Nevada, former Hawkeye running backs coach Lester Erb was Butler’s position coach his freshman and sophomore season. Erb coached wide receivers last season at Nevada before joining the staff at Rutgers in January.
Butler rushed for 635 yards and saw action in all 13 games for the Wolf Pack during his freshman season, finishing as the team’s third-leading rusher.
He earned honorable mention all-Mountain West Conference honors the past two seasons, rushing 207 times for 1,342 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore while averaging 6.4 yards per carry and 103.2 yards per game.
After ranking 23rd nationally in rushing as sophomore at the FBS level, Butler finished 27th in the country in rushing last season after gaining a career-high 196 yards on 32 carries for Nevada in its season-ending win over UNLV.
He averaged 111.3 yards per game last season, ranking fourth in the Mountain West, and collected 12 of his 15 touchdowns on the ground while being named the winner of the Golden Helmet Award as the Wolf Pack’s most valuable player.
Overall at Nevada, Butler rushed for 3,313 yards and ranks 10th on Nevada’s career list with 27 rushing touchdowns and was a three-time academic all-conference selection in the Mountain West.
At Iowa, he will provide experienced competition for Wadley.
Last season as a junior, Wadley rushed for 1,081 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago and was second on the team with 36 receptions while splitting time in the backfield with 2016 senior LeShun Daniels.
Sophomore Toks Akinribade saw action in six games last season as a true freshman and joins Wadley as the only returning Hawkeyes with game experience at the position.
Butler is Iowa’s second graduate transfer in as many years, following Ron Coluzzi who successfully stepped in as a starting punter and kicked off last season for the Hawkeyes after earning his undergraduate degree from Central Michigan.