‘I just represent a lot of people’: LeRoy Butler relishes time to give back to Jacksonville

Pro Football Hall of Fame selection hosted PAL football camp on Saturday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – LeRoy Butler will never forget his roots.

And he’s making sure no one ever forgets his story.

Butler has been making the rounds ever since he was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last February. He’d frequented Jacksonville in the past, but there’s quite a bit more demand on Butler now that he’s bound for Canton, Ohio.

Butler, along with former Jaguars star Tony Boselli, will be enshrined on Aug. 6.

“It just is a great time for me to really tell my story because a lot of these kids they don’t know my story. Where I grew up, poverty, single-family home, things of that nature. Humble beginnings. But I made it into the hall of fame because I had great people around me, great family.”

Butler was in town as the headliner for a Police Athletic League football camp bearing his name and signature move — he’s credited with inventing the iconic Lambeau Leap — on Saturday morning.

While he came to national prominence at Florida State and then with the Packers in Green Bay, Butler has never shied away from his Jacksonville upbringing.

It’s where he built his resolve that would carry him to football stardom. Butler’s path from public housing to Super Bowl champ and now, the hall of fame, is something that he talks openly about. He was bullied for growing up in poverty and his physical ailments in his legs and feet. When people see Butler now, they see a living legend. Butler drives home the point that it wasn’t like this all the time. He’s been at the low points in life, just like many are living now.

“I just represent a lot of people. If you’re a parent of a special needs kid, or if you’re a grandparent who helped raised kids, the community of Jacksonville, Duval County Jacksonville, I represent all of that,” Butler said. “That’s why it’s very emotional. It’ll almost be like that, I know I’ll get the gold jacket but I feel like hundreds of 1000s of people from Jacksonville and Wisconsin be getting a jacket with me.”

Butler spent 12 seasons in the NFL and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection. He had 721 tackles, 38 career interceptions and forced 13 fumbles. Butler said that Jacksonville is a place he still considers his home away from home.

He’s just the sixth player with local ties to be elected to the Hall, joining Boselli, Champ Bailey (Charlton County), Harold Carmichael and Brian Dawkins (both Raines) and Bob Hayes (Matthew Gilbert High School).

Butler said hosting the PAL camp had a significant meaning to him.

“My first book that was mine, that I didn’t check out from a library was from a guy we used to call him Officer Friendly Brown,” Butler said. “So a guy with the police is the first one that gave me my first book. So, I appreciated that. So when I thought about that a couple of weeks ago, I said this is coming full circle. To get my first book and host my first camp at the PAL and I’m pretty excited.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.