Presidential Lecture Series
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Former NFL player with Green Bay Packers, advocate for disadvantaged youth
"Be a leader, Not a Follower"
February 11, 2014
5:30 p.m. Public Reception
E156 Student Union
7 p.m. Lecture
Apollo Room, Student Union
Immediately following lecture
LeRoy Butler is a former NFL player who played strong safety for his entire career with the Green Bay Packers (1990-2001). Since retiring, he has become a vocal advocate for underprivileged youth. Butler has helped raise money for women, men, and families affected by breast cancer.
Born on July 19, 1968, Butler spent his childhood in Jacksonville, Florida. His parents separated when he was a toddler, and his mother, Eunice, supported Butler and his four siblings by working first as a secretary and later as a nurse. The family lived in a small apartment in the crime-infested Blodgett Homes housing project on Jacksonville’s west side.
As a child, Butler’s problems went beyond poverty and crime. He was born so pigeon-toed that doctors had to break bones in both of his feet when he was only eight months old to correct the problem. Walking was a major challenge for Butler, who spent much of his early youth in a wheelchair. Between the ages of six and eight, he had to wear leg braces. He spent much of his early childhood watching other children play in ways that he could not. At the time, doctors predicted that Butler would be lucky if he ever walked normally. Certainly, the notion of becoming a professional athlete was not in his foreseeable future.
As fate would have it, when he was eight years old, Butler discovered he no longer needed his leg braces—quite by accident. When his older sister raced out of the apartment one day, she inadvertently knocked Butler out of his wheelchair, sending his leg braces flying as well. Picking himself up, Butler discovered that he could not only walk normally, but he could also run pretty well. He immediately ran outside and joined in a kickball game. With this amazing turn of events, Butler discovered that he could not only run, but soon he could run faster than most of the kids in the neighborhood. The rest, as they say, is history.
By the time he was 10 years old, Butler was starring on the neighborhood football team. And, after junior high, he was recruited by football powerhouse Robert E. Lee High School on the other side of town. Butler earned seven varsity letters in all—three in football and two each in basketball and track. When he was a high school senior, Butler was a unanimous All-America pick, and he was heavily recruited by colleges all across the country. After accepting a football scholarship to Florida State University, Butler shared the defensive backfield for two years with two-sport superstar Deion Sanders.
Butler was selected by the Packers in the second round of the 1990 draft. He played in 181 games, earned a Super Bowl ring after the 1996 season, selected All-Pro 5 times, and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times (1993, 1996, 1997, and 1998). He was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and later inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 2007.
During his 12 seasons with the Packers, Butler recorded 953 tackles, 38 interceptions, 553 return yards, 12 fumble recoveries, 3 defensive touchdowns and 20 1/2 sacks. He led or tied for the team lead in interceptions in five different seasons. He was the first defensive back in NFL history to gain entrance in the 20 Sack/20 Interception Club.