LeRoy Butler joined Calf Summit attendees to share his inspiring life story of facing adversity with the right attitude. Butler is a former strong safety for the Green Bay Packers and the inventor of the “Lambeau Leap.”
Butler was born and raised in the inner-city of Jacksonville, Fla. His childhood included countless trips to the doctor because he couldn’t walk like the other kids at school. He had braces on his legs and was in a wheelchair. He reminisced on riding the short bus to school and everyday having the same three bullies waiting for him to get off the bus to pick on him.
Butler said, “My momma was my role model, and she told me to put my blinders on and ignore those people.”
He said by “keeping his power,” he was able to get rid of all three bullies one-by-one. When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he replied, “A professional football player.” Even with braces on his legs, he just kept focusing on that goal.
The night of his sister’s prom, Butler was sitting in his wheelchair and greeted her date at the door along with his other brothers. His sister was so nervous about what her brothers might say to her date that she ran down the stairs in her “six-inch heels” and knocked Butler right out of his wheelchair. When the chaos subsided, Butler was shocked to realize he was standing on his own.
From that point on, he lived his dream of playing football. In high school, he was a skinny kid whose coach told him he had to play linebacker. At only 131 pounds, he wasn’t big enough for the position, so the coach told him to drink lots of milk to bulk up. He did. In fact, he went on to become the first All-American at his high school. He even received a scholarship to play football at Florida State University.
He remembers the night he was drafted for the NFL.
“Everyone came over, ate two-week-old deviled eggs, watched bootleg cable, while my sister sat on the phone, which I hung up,” said Butler.
It’s a good thing he did. As soon as he hung up the phone, he got a call from the Green Bay Packers. On May 2, when he arrived to “God’s country,” a 90-year-old lady told him there were two things he needed to know before starting his NFL career: “Don’t lose to the Chicago Bears and you BETTER not lose to the Minnesota Vikings.”
Butler also told the story of inventing the Lambeau Leap. While running in for a touchdown, he looked up to the stands pointed at a man who had on half camouflage and half Packer gear and was holding a beer in one hand. He leaped into the man’s arm, the man threw his beer and caught Butler to join in the touchdown celebration. He then told Butler that he owed him a beer.
Butler said it’s the fun, kind and passionate fans of Green Bay that kept him a Packers for his entire career.