‘He inspired all of us’: LeRoy Butler’s impact began long before Hall of Fame honor

Butler made his name in Jacksonville before starring at FSU, Green Bay

Former Green Bay Packer LeRoy Butler talks to the press during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022 Announcement on February 10, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) (Rob Carr, 2022 Getty Images)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Long before LeRoy Butler was doing the Lambeau Leap into the stands in Green Bay, he was a shining star in Jacksonville.

From the children he taught the game, to dominating the field with signature moves, Butler is a man worth honoring.

On Thursday night, Butler joined Harold Carmichael and Brian Dawkins (both Raines High) and Bob Hayes (Matthew Gilbert High School) as the only men from Jacksonville to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Butler, the football star and philanthropist, got his start at what was then Lee High School. His head coach was the iconic Corky Rogers, who died in February 2020. One of his assistant coaches at Lee, Leon Barrett, said on Friday, that Butler is a testament to perseverance. It was impossible not to respect Butler, for what he’d been through and where he was headed.

“LeRoy was the type of kid that looked out for everybody. We were like a family. And taking him home, he would always say, ‘Coach,’ and he called my wife mom. He said don’t stop here just keep going when you let me out,” Barrett said. “He lived in a tough part of town. And to come out of that and go where he is today, it couldn’t have happened to a better person. A better kid.”

Long before LeRoy Butler was doing the Lambeau Leap into the stands in Green Bay, he was a shining star in Jacksonville.

From Jacksonville to Florida State and Green Bay, the newest Hall of Famer expressed gratitude for his life as an athlete.

“The best gift the NFL has ever given me is I’ve made friends, family and fans and being able to connect,” Butler said Thursday night. “It gives us a platform to do what we want off the field as well as on the field. That’s a huge benefit, now being in the Hall of Fame you can just expand that more.”

Butler has already changed so many lives, like football standout Jordan Johnson, an Ed White High grad who went on to play at UCF. Johnson attended one of Butler’s camps as a kid. Now, he’s a football coach.

“He inspired all of us, ever since then or maybe right before that, is when I decided to be a football player you know, just inspired by him,” Johnson said.

Johnson was one of the hundreds of children who benefited from the LeRoy Butler Foundation. Rodney Hurst worked closely with Butler and his family as the executive director for two years.

“They were also great human beings off the field, and I think LeRoy joins that crowd of great young men who felt it a privilege to give back to the community which is what he continues to do,” Hurst said.

As a child, Butler struggled to walk on his own due to severely pigeon-toed and clubbed feet. Butler needed heavy braces on to help straighten his legs and feet out. He also used a wheelchair to get around.

Through perseverance and patience, Butler went from struggling to walk to creating some of the most memorable moments on the football field, such as the puntrooskie with Florida State and the famous Lambeau Leap with the Packers.

“I was a special-needs student, special education, couldn’t read and I told her at eight years old I wanted to play in the NFL to get her out of the projects,” Butler said.

Despite all the challenges and victories in Butler’s life, he remains a man of inspiration and encouragement to others.

Now, Butler can add Hall of Famer to the list.

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