was one of the game’s finest defensive backs. Aside from having a knack for finding the football, he was a devastating tackler. No player has had to wait longer than Jack’s 50 years to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Jack never played football in high school. In fact, he had visions of becoming a Catholic priest. Soon after graduating high school, he had a change of heart and enrolled at St. Bonaventure. As fate would have it, he was encouraged to give football a try by the school’s athletic director, Father Silas, who just so happened to be the brother of founder and owner Art Rooney.
Despite a fine college career, Butler went undrafted in 1951. Art Rooney and the Steelers were quite familiar with the talented player out of tiny St. Bonaventure. So, they were quick to sign him to a pro contract. It was a move that obviously paid huge dividends. Butler is the 15th undrafted free agent to make it to Canton and first Bonnie alum in the Hall.
Butler, who early in his career spent some time on the offensive side the ball, was known for his great hands. So, it came as little surprise that it didn’t take long for him to record his first career interception. That came in spectacular fashion as he closed out a great comeback by the Steelers against the Chicago Cardinals on Oct. 28, 1951. Trailing 14-7 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh scored three times and rallied to a 28-14 come-from-behind victory. Butler joined in the fray by stepping in front of veteran QB Jim Hardy’s pass and racing 52 yards for pay dirt. Interesting, the number 52 was a bit of foreshadowing of what was to come. Butler retired as the game’s second all-time leading interceptor with 52 career picks.
Jack’s interception total remained a Steelers record until broken by fellow Hall of Fame Mel Blount on Dec. 19, 1982.
Butler not only set a team record when he intercepted four passes in a game against the Washington Redskins two years after his first interception, but he also tied an NFL record. He shares the mark today with 18 other players. Butler’s record-breaking performance occurred on Dec. 13, 1953, at Griffith Stadium in Washington. The Steelers trailed 13-0 as they entered the fourth quarter. But, Pittsburgh started to rally and scored a touchdown midway through the final stanza. Then it was Butler who alertly intercepted Redskins quarterback Eddie LeBaron, who threw from behind his own goal line. Butler snagged the ball and easily stepped in the end zone for the score. The ensuing PAT put the final touches on the Steelers amazing victory.
“ was one of the best ever to play his position, and again in my estimation he more than deserves his spot in the Hall of Fame.” - Hall of Fame half back/flanker Frank Gifford
“I recently had a chance to see Jack’s numbers as compared to others who played his position who are in the Hall of Fame. I also recall my memories of playing against him during my years in the league. Comparing him and his numbers – particularly interceptions – with others in the Hall of Fame it seems pretty clear to me.” - Hall of Fame end Raymond Berry
“I would like to congratulate both Jack and Dermontti for their elections to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They are both deserving of this honor for all they have done throughout the years to help build and continue our rich tradition. It is a great day for the entire organization that we can celebrate two of our all-time greats getting selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012.” - ' President Art Rooney II
“I have played with many Hall of Fame players and worked for Hall of Fame coaches, including Curly Lambeau, Joe Stydahar, Weeb Ewbank and Norm Van Brocklin. In my 12 years playing, I know who belongs in that Hall of Fame building, and that’s .” - former NFL defensive end Don Joyce
“I never, ever thought I would be here. I just didn't think this was reality. When I was a kid, I dreamed about being a football player. And here I am, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, going into the Hall of Fame. I can't believe it.” -
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