Two key scorers for the earliest soccer teams at North Greenville University, Royce Butler and John Graeper, were inducted into the North Greenville University Athletic Hall of Fame at a fall sports award ceremony held on Monday, November 28.
Royce Butler, Class of 1988, came to Tigerville in the fall of 1986 and helped new head coach Billy Watson immediately turn the fortunes of the fledgling soccer program.
Butler was a standout player in Amarillo, Texas where he led Amarillo High School to a league title and a district runner-up spot. He competed in several prestigious tournaments in Texas before coming to North Greenville.
He earned two letters while at North Greenville and was a team co-captain. Despite playing defense, he still was one of the top scorers for the team. Butler was a key member of North Greenville’s first-ever soccer victory in 1986 season.
He also helped lead the program to its first-ever winning season in 1987 with nine wins. North Greenville, behind Butler’s scoring, defeated Anderson College, which was ranked in the NJCAA top 10, and nationally ranked Brevard, and advanced to the NJCAA Region 10 national playoffs for the first time. He also participated in the Region 10 All-Star game in 1987.
Currently residing in Knoxville, Tenn., Butler is a Safety Basis Technical Advisor and is married to Tracy. They have two children, Garrett (17), and Megan (13). He is active in his church and community in the Widows Ministry, Elderly Winterization Project, Habitat for Humanity, and a church deacon.
John Graeper, Class of 1988 and teammate of Butler, is remembered by head coach Billy Watson as having a ‘legendary flip throw.’ Graeper was one of the early scoring stars for the soccer team. He came to North Greenville after a stellar high school career in Lake Oswego, Oregon, where he led his team to two fourth place finishes in the Oregon State championships.
Graeper immediately took control of the scoring for the North Greenville team and was a primary factor in the NGU’s first ever victory in 1986. He also helped lead the program to its first-ever winning season in 1987 with nine wins.
He was the second leading scorer in 1986, and a junior college All-Conference and All-Region selection both years at NGC. He also participated in the Region 10 All-Star game in 1987.
Currently residing in Rutherfordton, NC, Graeper is the owner and proprietor of John Graeper Home Improvements. He is active at First Baptist Church, Rutherforton, and is married to Marie Stone Graeper, and has two sons, Tyler (18), and Bailey (14).
Induction into the NGU Athletic Hall of Fame is extended to former athletes and coaches whose connections with the University have been dissolved for greater than a one year period. Inductees must have participated in NGU athletics in good standing for at least two seasons. Athletes should have demonstrated high athletic achievement while at NGU. Coaches should have demonstrated high professional achievement and the “selfless” attitude in influencing NGU athletes. Individuals should have made significant contributions to the University’s athletic program that has resulted in its success, growth and development. All individuals being considered for membership in the NGU Athletic Hall of Fame must have demonstrated the highest standards of personal character and morals during their time at NGU and at the time of selection and induction.
Photo: L to R: Billy Watson, former NGU soccer coach; Royce Butler; John Graeper; and President Epting.