Former Packers safety LeRoy Butler was named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame last week. The former Florida State star who played for the Packers from 1990-2001 deserves to be inducted into the hallowed halls of Canton. In fact, the honor is long overdue.
Butler himself was moved by the honor of being named a finalist. He tweeted:
When it comes to credentials, Butler has all you need to qualify for the Hall of Fame. Here are five reasons LeRoy Butler deserves to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame:
1. Butler Was a Dominant Player
During his career, Butler was a dominating player. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times, after the 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998 season. He was also named All-Pro each of those same four seasons. That means he was the best in the league at his position.
In addition, Butler was recognized as a dominant player after his career ended when he was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s. As of now, Butler and former Broncos safety Steve Atwater are the only members of the team who have not been inducted into Canton.
2. He Played for Winning Teams and Played Well in Big Games
It may not be fair but playing for winning teams and especially Super Bowl-winning teams helps any player’s Hall of Fame chances. The Packers made back-to-back Super Bowls during Butler’s tenure in Green Bay and won Super Bowl XXXI.
The Packers also reached the playoffs six straight times during Butler’s prime and Butler stepped up his game in the postseason.
He recorded three sacks in playoff games including a takedown of Drew Bledsoe in the Super Bowl win over New England. Butler also recovered a pair of fumbles in the playoffs and recorded an interception as well. One of the fumble recoveries came in the 1996 NFC Championship Game against Carolina.
3. He Revolutionized His Position
Butler was one of the most well-rounded safeties in NFL history. When he was drafted by the Packers in 1990, he was originally a cornerback, but he shifted to safety in 1992 when Green Bay drafted Terrell Buckley in the first round. So, he had the pass coverage ability of a corner.
Butler was also an elite blitzer from the safety position. He was the first defensive back in NFL history to finish his career with more than 20 career sacks (20.5) and 20 career interceptions (38). Few safeties played that way in the decade or so before Butler’s career.
Fritz Shurmur, who was Green Bay’s defensive coordinator during Butler’s prime recalled in the Packers 1997 Yearbook that Butler had “great instinctive feel for the ball. [He] gives us an opportunity for a lot of flexibility in our defense, with his ability to blitz, to rush the passer. A very smart, innovative guy, a leader.”
4. Butler Was a Leader
Butler was one of the Packers team leaders along with Brett Favre and Reggie White both of whom are already in the Hall of Fame.
Younger players looked up to Butler and he did things the right way during his career.
“He has a tremendous concept of what we’re doing, and it makes it easier for us to use him in certain ways,” Packers secondary coach Bob Valesente told the 1998 Packers Yearbook. “He’s a great talent, but he studies hard. We do a lot of teaching in the classroom and on the field and he’s not only picked up on it, but he’s become a teacher himself with the younger guys.”
Butler’s enthusiasm was contagious, he was a smart football player and his work ethic and leadership made the players around him better.
5. He Started an Iconic Tradition
Butler also started an ongoing and iconic Packers tradition when he made the first Lambeau Leap on December 26, 1993, against the Los Angeles Raiders.
Reggie White recovered a fumble on a screen pass and then lateraled the ball to Butler who returned it for a touchdown. After the score, he jumped into the stands to celebrate with the fans. It became a tradition that continues to this day at Lambeau Field.
The Lambeau Leap helped further cement the unique bond between the Packers and their fans and became something recognized and respected throughout the league. Although other teams have at times tried to copy it, it remains a special part of the Packers tradition.
Overall, Butler meets all the criteria you look for in a Hall of Fame player. He was dominant, a leader, a winner, played at his best in big games and had iconic and memorable moments. He also changed the way his position was played which means he changed the game.
You can view some of Butler’s career highlights below.
Perhaps Packers Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf summed up Butler best when he simply said, “He had no weakness.”
“It’s crazy that LeRoy Butler is not in the Hall of Fame,” Favre said in 2015. “We don’t win nearly as many football games as we did or have the kind of success we did without LeRoy Butler.”
A player like that definitely deserves enshrinement in Canton. The announcement of this year’s class will be made the day before the Super Bowl.
Follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers
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