Jack Butler who ascended from free agent signee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame died Saturday. He was 85.
Butler went undrafted out of St. Bonaventure and was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1951. Early in his career an opportunity to make his mark came when an injury depleted lineup resulted in Butler moving into the Steelers defensive backfield. Over the next nine seasons, he became one of the most dominant cornerbacks in the history of the National Football League before a severe injury prematurely ended his playing days.
“Jack Butler’s place in history as one of the finest cornerbacks ever to step on a NFL field is permanently noted by his induction into the Hall of Fame last summer,” commented Steve Perry, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s president/executive director. “On behalf of Jack’s fellow Hall of Famers, the Hall of Fame’s Board of Trustees and staff, I extend our heartfelt sympathies to the entire Butler family.”
Butler had an unique penchant for intercepting passes and tallied a career total of 52 career picks which he returned for 827 yards and 4 TDs. He picked off 25 passes in his first four seasons but national accolades eluded him. He finally received his just due in 1955 with the first of four career Pro Bowl invitations. He also was one of the first players to record four interceptions in a game when he achieved that feat in a game in 1953. He retired as the game’s second all-time leading interceptor after suffering a career-ending leg injury during a game in 1959.
He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1950s. In 2012, in his 50th year of eligibility, he earned election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A humble and proud man, who also possessed a sense of humor, he closed his enshrinement speech last August with these words “I am thankful to God for all that I have been given throughout my life. I am thankful for the support of my family and friends. I am thankful for my brother, my sister who are here to witness this. I am thankful for my wife, my children, my grandchildren that are here to see this also. Heck, I'm thankful I'm here.”