Tue, 03 Oct 2023

Canton 'worth the wait' for LeRoy Butler

08 Aug 2022, 18:12 GMT+10

Former Packers safety takes his place in the Pro Football Hall of FameWes Hodkiewicz

CANTON, Ohio - LeRoy Butler promised to be brief and the former Packers safety was a man of his word.

After a 16-year wait, Butler needed roughly five minutes on Saturday afternoon to humor those in attendance at Tom Benson Stadium and acknowledge the dozens of family, friends, teachers, coaches and former teammates who helped him become the 357th member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It was a fitting conclusion to a 12-year NFL career that saw Butler become the first defensive back to record 20 interceptions and 20 sacks. To this day, Butler is one of just four players (and two safeties) with at least 35 INTs and 20 sacks.

After unveiling his bust alongside his father-in-law, Charlton Jordan, Butler opened his speech by congratulating Hall of Fame bust sculptor Blair Buswell for a job well done and thanking him for the "haircut."

The playful Butler also made quite possibly the first-ever DJ Khaled reference at the enshrinement ceremony before expressing his gratitude for what it means to be the 28th former Packers player or executive in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"When you play for the Green Bay Packers, a lot of doors open up," Butler said. "When you win a Super Bowl, all the doors open up. When you make the Hall of Fame, football heaven opens up. Want to know why? It's rare company."

As quickly as Butler could get out the words, "Growing up in Jacksonville," the Packers' four-time All-Pro was immediately met by a deluge of "DUVAL" cries from devoted Jaguars fans, whose team played in Thursday's Hall of Fame game.

Humble beginnings in Jacksonville helped Butler appreciate everything he did have, thanks to his mother, Eunice, who made her children "think rich every day" and reminded them "it's not about what you have on or what you have - it's how you act."

Growing up in the projects was one thing, but Butler also struggled to walk until he was 5 after being born with clubbed feet, which needed to be broken in order to grow properly.

During those difficult times, Butler leaned on his siblings, Vicki, Darion, Michael and Doug, and remains grateful to them to this day. There also was his uncle, Charles Durham, who was responsible for getting Butler involved in sports.

Today, Butler's world revolves around his wife and co-presenter, Genesis, and his five girls, Sharon (who couldn't attend because she's giving birth to Butler's fifth grandchild), L'Oreal, Gabrielle, Dani, Maria, Siera, and son LeRoy IV.

Butler admits he wouldn't be here if it weren't for his teachers and coaches, especially legendary Florida high school football coach Corky Rogers and Bobby Bowden, who recruited Butler to Florida State despite his socioeconomic and academic circumstances.

"Coach Bobby Bowden drives into the inner city, the projects. I said, 'Coach, you can't just drive in here. You gotta ease your way down,'" Butler recalled. "(He said) I'm telling Ms. Butler, 'I'm giving your baby a scholarship.'"

Butler's life changed dramatically once he was drafted by the Packers. Butler voiced his appreciation for former team president Bob Harlan, public relations director Lee Remmel and head coach Mike Holmgren, whom he also hopes "one day will be up here."

In closing, Butler thanked Packers fans while reminding them "without you, there is no LeRoy Butler." The same could be said for his iconic Lambeau Leap, which he founded on Dec. 26, 1993, after his 25-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Raiders.

Finally, Butler thanked his Packers teammates in the ultimate team sport, joking that "where else can you go ... where I have a bad game every now and then - don't Google it - and my other 10 teammates carried me. My teammates, I love them."

Former defensive tackle Gilbert Brown, who rode alongside Butler in Saturday morning's Hall of Fame parade, recounted during his presentation how emotional he was after finding out Butler had been voted into Canton earlier this year.

"I slammed my brakes and I screamed out the window, 'It's about time they got my homeboy in this stuff here,'" said Brown, laughing. "'Bout time."

For Butler, the timing was perfect. He credits Eunice for his positivity, patience, and helping him craft his speech prior to her passing in November 2016.

Taking one final breath, with his newly minted Hall of Fame bust to his left side, Butler smiled and reflected on his path to Canton.

"Sixteen years is a long time," said Butler, pausing for a moment. "But it's worth the wait."

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