LeRoy Butler: Original Leaper
If you can remember all the way back to last year, I threw five of my favorite players into the Packer Perspective Hall of Fame. I intended to use the Hall of Fame page to talk about some of the players I liked for no particular reason, or some players who meant something special to me. I stopped after five players, intending to revisit the page this year with a new class of five. The time to start unveiling that class is now.
Between now and August, I'll introduce you to five more of my favorite players, telling you what they mean to me and why.
To open the 2012 class, I'd like to tell you about LeRoy Butler. Butler is the first player I can ever remember consciously imitating when I played football. A versatile and athletic defensive back, LeRoy was never short of confidence, often thumping his chest with a fist as he was introduced at Lambeau Field every week, a move I borrowed from time to time during playground football.
LeRoy Butler was one of the heroes of the Packers' 1996 Super Bowl run, swooping in for interceptions and harassing opposing quarterbacks even more with devastating blitzes. Had Bruce Smith not recorded 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles, Butler might have been Defensive Player of the Year that year, posting 6.5 sacks, five interceptions, two forced fumbles, and an unofficial total of 65 tackles. Butler's 1996 season was so good, only three other players in NFL history have been able to do something similar.
But of course, very few people actually remember LeRoy Butler for his stats or swagger. There's one play that sticks in the collective consciousness of Packer Nation:
It's funny to look back on the original Lambeau Leap through the lens of the modern NFL. Had it happened for the first time today, replay review probably would have showed that the runner was down, or even that Reggie White may have had a foot out of bounds before he lateraled the ball to Butler. And even if the play had remained a touchdown, then Butler might have been flagged for excessive celebration for the Leap or the much-delayed dance that followed.
The play, however, stood, and Butler leaped into Packers' lore with his now-iconic celebration. That's why he's a Hall of Famer to me, and it's why so many people still remember his name today.