Class of 2022: LeRoy Butler - Wait for Pro Football Hall of Fame worth trip to ‘Heaven’

By Barry Wilner
Special to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

LeROY BUTLER went from wearing leg braces as a kid to inventing the Lambeau Leap in the NFL. 

Quite a journey for the 12-season Green Bay safety who was enshrined Saturday into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

The hard-hitting, big-play defensive back was a key to the Packers winning three consecutive division crowns and the 1996 NFL Championship, beating New England in the Super Bowl when he had seven tackles and a sack.   

A four-time All-Pro, he led the Packers in picks five times, intercepted a pass in each of his first 11 seasons and had 38 in all. Butler also had 20.5 career sacks and was one of the most physical, intelligent and resourceful safeties the modern game has seen. 

“When you play for the Green Bay Packers a lot of things open up,” Butler said. “When you win a Super Bowl all things open up. You make the Hall of Fame, football heaven opens up.” 

And then there was that wild play against the Raiders in 1993. 

Raiders running back Randy Jordan was hit hard (naturally) by Butler and the ball came loose. REGGIE WHITE, another Hall of Famer, grabbed it and ran about 10 yards, all the time looking for someone to take a lateral. That someone was Butler, who sped down the sideline for his first career TD.  

Then he jumped into the stands. 

“The fans got to see and touch something they had never experienced. And when anybody jumped in the stands, my home boy started it,” said former teammate Gilbert Brown, who helped introduce Butler via video on Saturday. 

As a youngster, walking, let alone jumping, was a major challenge for Butler. Because the bones in his feet were misaligned, he could walk only for short distances, couldn’t run and often needed a wheelchair or the leg braces. 

Yet he persevered, became a star at Florida State and a second-round draft pick in 1990, playing in an era filled with brilliant safeties, including Hall of Famers STEVE ATWATER, BRIAN DAWKINS and ED REED. It took 16 years of eligibility before Butler joined former teammates White and Brett Favre in the Hall. 

One of his main supporters for years has been Atwater. 

“I think all of us overcome some adversity, but that’s just a whole other level there,” Atwater told The Associated Press. “To not get picked for teams because of the situation with his legs and then to overcome that — even the mental part of it, you’ve got to be so strong mentally — and play at the high level he played at is amazing.”