Former Green Bay safety LeRoy Butler was more than a four-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and Super Bowl champion. He was a first-team choice on the 1990s’ all-decade team, which means he was considered one of the two best at his position for those 10 years, and he was the first defensive back in NFL history to reach the 20 sack/20 interception club.
Yet since retiring following the 2001 season, Butler had never been a Hall-of-Fame semifinalist … that is, not until now.
One of the 27 to make the first cut for the Class of 2018, Butler conceded on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast that he was “shocked” and “elated” to hear the news … but admitted he thought it was overdue.
“If it wasn’t for Ronnie Lott, there is no LeRoy Butler,” he said. “There’s just not. I watched Ronnie Lott a the safety position … (and) if there’s one thing that separated me (it’s) on third down I covered the best tight end. On second-and-long, I covered the slot receiver. I covered people.
“When people say what safeties have to do, I just want to see tape of these guys covering people. I mean, I never wanted to be the safety that sits in centerfield and gets a lot of picks. No! I wanted to go after the quarterback, and I wanted to get sacks and things of that nature.
“Now you get a chance to develop people like Troy Polamalu and (Brian) Dawkins and these guys who’ve done more than some of these guys with just a lot of interceptions. Because they affected the game. Did you have … the offensive coordinator draw up plays to avoid this guy? Almost like the Deion Sanders of safeties. Did we have to avoid this guy? And that’s what I prided myself (on), and that’s what I thought I brought to the game.”
Of course, Butler brought something else to the game, too. He’s credited with inventing The Lambeau Leap, which should qualify him for some place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After all, that changed the game, too, with dozens of Packers over the years making the jump into end-zone seats following touchdowns.
“If you want to talk about relating to your fans and having a great fan base,” said Butler, “no one really wanted to sit in the North and South end-zone seats until I started that leap. Now everybody wants to get into those end zones because you get a chance to catch one of your favorite players.
“I just think it shows the connection we have with our fans here in Green Bay. Everybody has a great fan base, but when you can do something where it connects the players to the fans … I think it’s awesome.”