‘More than a coach’: Butler community mourns passing of football legend Steve Braet

Steve Braet, a legendary football coach for decades at Butler Community College, died on Thursday following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 69.

Braet spent 42 seasons on the Butler sidelines as defensive line coach and was the common link to all six NJCAA national championships (1981, 1998, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2008) won by the Grizzlies.

Long considered one of the top defensive line coaches in the country, regardless of level, Braet retired in 2022 and was inducted into the Butler Athletic Hall of Fame last September. He was also a member of the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame class of 2017.

“He was more than a coach here,” Butler athletic director Todd Carter, who worked with Braet for 37 years, told The Eagle. “He was just a great human being and a father figure for so many of our student-athletes, and not just the football players. He was so well-respected and loved by everybody. Everybody that’s been at Butler in the last 40 years knows this guy, so his legacy is going to live on forever at this place.”

Former Butler football coach Steve Braet celebrates after winning his sixth national championship with the Grizzlies.
Former Butler football coach Steve Braet celebrates after winning his sixth national championship with the Grizzlies.

Known for his booming, gruff voice and infectious personality, Braet coached 33 All-Americans and 12 defensive linemen who went on to enjoy NFL careers. He helped the Grizzlies win 22 Jayhawk Conference championships and close to 74% of their games (337-118-2).

Butler head coach Brice Vignery, who played for and coached with Braet, said Braet’s impact goes beyond football. He was the ultimate relationship-builder.

“You could go to the game and hear his booming voice and watch him get after it, but what you didn’t see was the conversations in the office, the conversations in the homes, the relationships he built,” Vignery told The Eagle. “I’ve been getting text messages not just from former players, but from cafeteria workers, people in facilities, just from people in El Dorado. He knew how to relate to them all and make them feel important. That’s what everybody is mourning today because we all lost a piece of our lives. His legacy will be his family and then all of the lives he touched over the decades he was here, all of the lives he changed and all of the lives he saved.”

When news spread of Braet’s passing on Thursday, former players took to social media to remember their favorite position coach from their time in El Dorado.

“A coach, a leader, a father figure and an even better human,” wrote Jeremy Mincey, a former defensive end for Butler from 2002-03 who played eight years in the NFL. “The master of squeezing water from a rock!”

Braet’s coaching career with the Grizzlies began in 1979 as an unpaid volunteer assistant. After the team won its first national title in 1981, Braet briefly left the program for a two-year coaching stint at Wichita State before returning to Butler in 1984. He was named the AFLAC National Assistant Coach of the Year in 2001 and the Samson Equipment Junior College Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year in 2006.

Former Butler head coach Troy Morrell, who won five national titles while working with Braet, lauded Braet’s contributions to the program when he retired in 2022.

“Through the many years he was the pillar of consistency,” Morrell told “There’s been a lot of different head coaches and assistant coaches that have come through here. He’s been the guy who has been the rock.”

While he was demanding in the game of football, Braet poured himself into others away from games and practices. He was known on campus for serving food to student-athletes in the cafeteria and helping out other athletic teams whenever he could.

Braet’s signature warm-up drill — a few claps, followed by a hit on the thigh pads and a chant delivered in a cadence only he could do — was stuff of legend in the Butler program. Vignery said the program continues to do the same warm-up drill in honor of Braet.

Braet is survived by his wife, Dana, his two sons, Taylor and Corey, and five grandchildren.

“You have always been my hero and always will be,” wrote Taylor Braet, who is the director of recruiting for the Kansas State football team. “Thank you for all you have done, from the life lessons to the people you have impacted. The memories, the laughter, the constant wildness, and football banter will forever be cherished. Your love for our family and your players will always be felt. I know you’re in a better place watching over all of us. I also know you’re already talking about football with God.”