The Impossible Life of LeRoy Butler
From the wheelchair to extreme poverty to Florida State to changing the NFL, the Green Bay Packers safety has lived it all. Today, Canton may come calling.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more joyful human being to talk to in the game of football than LeRoy Butler. The former Green Bay Packers safety is always laughing, always smiling and there’s a reason for this, too.
His perspective is one of a kind.
Long before Butler was a four-time All Pro, long before he won a Super Bowl and helped put the Packers back on the map, he grew up in a wheelchair, endured severe poverty in Jacksonville, Fla., was right there when one of his best friends died in a shootout and, miraculously, clawed his way to Florida State.
The voting for the Pro Football Hall of Fame is today and, for my money, there shouldn’t be any Hall without Butler. The 1990 second-round pick who played his entire 12-year career in Green Bay is the only first-team member of the 1990s All-Decade Team that isn’t in Canton. He was the first DB ever to record 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in his career. Butler changed the safety position. Used everywhere — near the line, back deep, in the slot — he finished with 953 tackles, 38 interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries, three touchdowns and 20.5 sacks.
Of course, he invented the Lambeau Leap, too.
And, as you’ll read here, Butler’s life is about far more than numbers. Doctors weren’t even sure if he’d ever be able to walk as a kid. And today as an adult? He’s saving lives. He’s talking other former players out of suicide. He’s spreading his joy.
I think a lot of people in Wisconsin may be familiar with your upbringing. It’s unbelievable. But for people who may not know, how would you sum that up? You’re born severely pigeon-toed with clubbed feet. You’re in a wheelchair. You don’t know if you’re going to walk again as a kid.
Butler: Yeah, you really don’t know because at a young age, most of the time, you’re going to a swimming pool, you’re playing tag, you’re having sleepovers. That’s normally what you worry about as a kid. But when you realize you can’t do that, you really need some great leadership to focus in on your calling in life. I had a great Mom. My Mom made it normal — you just keep it moving. You concentrate on what you want to do. We had a conversation about, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” That conversation changed my whole outlook on life.
Butler: After church, there were two things I’d watch that would catch my interest. It was, first, Tarzan. After Tarzan, I was waiting for the NFL to come on at 1 o’clock EST. I really loved this football stuff. It was the ultimate team sport — and seeing that I’m disabled — I’m going to need some help! That’s why individual sports, for me, were out like golf. In football, you need your brother next to you to win a championship. And she told me, at eight years old, “This is how you do it.” And we put together a gameplan. For other kids out there with disabilities, with parents, you sometimes think, “This only happens to my kid.” And you feel bad. “My kid has autism or a speech impediment.” But my Mom didn’t look at it that way. She looked at it as, God gave me the ability to focus — because I couldn’t go anywhere! — to focus on how I was going to be able to put together a gameplan to make it to the NFL.
So, you’re in a wheelchair as a kid? When you’re plotting this NFL life out?
Butler: Oh yeah! Yeah! I had the Forrest Gump braces. I used to have crutches. All of that. I couldn’t go anywhere, so my sister and brother would go outside and I had to stay inside. My Mom was that helicopter Mom, which is awesome because I learned how to cook—and we would just talk and look in the newspaper and look up scores and pictures of touchdowns and she would explain it to me. Most kids are going out for Little League sports and I couldn’t do that until later.
Doctors broke your feet when you were eight months old to try to correct it?
Butler: Yeah, they had to set them in these casts so they wouldn’t be so extremely pigeon-toed. So I had to wear these casts all the way up to my hip — for a long time. And it wasn’t a big deal to me. My sister carried me wherever I needed to go. And I would just wait for Sundays. And my Mom — seeing that I’m the favorite child — she would let me stay up to watch to watch Monday Night Football at 9 o’clock EST. Everybody else had to go to bed and she said I could watch the first quarter.
If you see a pigeon walk or a penguin, it was like that. It was extreme. So they had to put them in this cast to keep them straight. And you had to keep them on for so long and then they would hopefully straighten out. One of them kind of did. One of them still was pigeon-toed — still to this day as a matter of fact.
And is it true that you fell out and were able to walk suddenly?
Butler: My sister knocked me out of the wheelchair! And that broke one of my little braces. And then, I was able to stand up and maneuver around. It wasn’t like I started running a 4.3 at that point. It was new. Because I always had to have some kind of assistance. Either the braces, crutches, or something, or somebody assisting me. But I didn’t need any help. I did it on my own. I have to give a shoutout to those nurses because that’s what they told me would happen. One nurse was like, “You just have to do it one day and see what happens. If you fall, just get up and keep trying.”
I was like eight going into nine. I told her I was going to the NFL and she’d laugh and say, “I can’t wait to see that. That will be amazing.”
And you grew up in some pretty intense poverty. What was life like?
Butler: My first new shirt — and when I say “new,” I mean I popped the tag — was from the Salvation Army. I was a pre-teen. Most kids would come down to get toys, bikes or whatever. And I told this young lady, “You know what I want? I’d love that new shirt over there hanging up.” She said, “I don’t think that’s your size.” I said, “I don’t care. I’ve never had a new shirt.” She said, “You can have it but don’t you want toys?” I said, “Toys are kind of lame. Where I come from, that new shirt… I wear hand-me-downs. See my brother’s shirt? I have to wear that tomorrow.” We laughed about it but it was true. She gave me a couple new shirts. She taught me how to fold it and put it in a bag. And I waited in an area for my Mom where the kids were. And then my brother, sister, everybody was grabbing stuff — everybody grabbed all these toys — and I walked out of there with two new shirts. It changed my life.
So, there’s six of you kids, right? And you don’t know if you’re going to have running water or electricity — is it really day-to-day, week-to-week poverty like that?
Butler: We lived in one of these complexes called the Blodgett Homes, and it was government-assisted. They would help you as long as you had a job to pay the bills. And my Mom had like three jobs. But can you imagine being in Florida and not having air conditioning? We had fans! It just moves around hot air. It’s not cooling. I didn’t even know what bottled water was until I got to Florida State. I thought everybody drank out of the faucet. And the milk, we had to mix it with water — this powder stuff — and we drank it! The emotional part about it is we were so humbled, it didn’t really bother us that we were in poverty because we were OK with it. We didn’t even know we were poor.
How does your Mom even make this happen and, I can’t remember was your Dad around?
Butler: That’s a whole other show. Her and my Dad broke up when I was like four. So my Mom had to be the mother and the Dad. But I had great, fantastic uncles. My grandmother had a big family — my Mom was one of like nine kids. And we all lived in different parts of the projects. I remember one time we ran out of soap. So you had to go to Grandma’s house and Grandma lived like a half-mile away but walking through those projects was dangerous.
Butler: You’d hear gunshots or you’d see guys fighting or people selling drugs. But we needed soap. So Grandma was like “I’ll bring it!” and we were like, “No, Grandma. We can run faster than you. We will be there, grab the soap.” So we went to her house and she was on the second level of the projects. She threw it out the window! And we’d catch this soap and she’d say, “Now, run home!” And we ran home. You don’t want to be out when it’s dark. It was that rough.
Was it life or death in the projects, too?
Butler: A good friend of mine, we were at the bus stop, waiting on the bus. And some guys drive by and it was like a shootout with the police. We started to run. And when we ran, I noticed he wasn’t with me. And he got shot in the head. It was a stray bullet. They were shooting out at the police and he got shot in the head.
How old were you guys?
Butler: Like 11, 12 years old. That was one of my good friends, too. That was pretty traumatic. You know how they chalk your body out? You die and have that yellow tape? We saw that yellow tape. That was always in my dreams — a crime scene. The bullet casings. You would be sleeping and hear gunshots all the time. But as a young kid, you’re thinking: “I’ve heard that sound before but I’m home so I know I’m good. That’s what my Mom used to say: “Don’t let the streetlights catch you.” Because that means it’s about to get dark. The street lights come on automatically when it’s about to get dark.
You can remember that scene? Running with your friends in a shootout?
Butler: Oh yeah. You would think a shootout wouldn’t take place in a neighborhood. But for that neighborhood, they just shoot whatever moves — and you’re just running. I was super, super, super religious and I remember the junior pastor because part of the therapy, when you see something like that, is you have to talk to somebody. He said, “I can’t explain why God protected you and not your friend.” But he said, “Just go read John 3:16 and then come back to talk to me.” I was like, “Whoa. That was some heavy stuff, man, to see that.” I had never seen a dead person. When you see it laying like that, it changes your whole perspective on life.
When did you realize you had this gift, this talent that could take everybody out of there?
Butler: In junior high, I was a pretty decent football player. But I wasn’t anything special. But when I got to high school, I always made the right decisions on the football field and I knew I could adapt quicker mentally knowing plays, recognizing formations and then I said, “You know what? I may be able to go to college one day.” That was in 11th grade. I couldn’t go to the NFL without going to college, so I asked my Mom how many people in our family went to college. She said, “Nobody.” That was shocking to me because, c’mon, somebody had to go to college. So my senior year, it just hit me one day. I was in my algebra class. My favorite teacher, Miss Gordon — like “Flash Gordon” — we thought she was the smartest teacher because she taught you how to work problems faster. She came to me and said, “Listen. You’ve got to make sure you don’t get caught up with these bad kids. If you really want to get your Mom out of the projects, like you say every single day, you’ve just got to be a good guy. Everything else will take care of itself.”
My grandmother took it further — she always said that God gave everybody a power or an ability. I said, “What’s mine?” She says, “You have the unique ability to ignore anything negative.” She said, “All that stuff that happened to you as a little kid, you don’t let it weigh on your shoulders, and you’re still walking around here talking about the NFL.” … My sister said, “If you really want to make it, write ‘N-F-L’ on a sheet of paper and put it under the pillow.” I said, “The bed? The mattress?” She said, “No! Under the pillow!” I said, “Why under the pillow?” She said, “So when you wake up, you can reach it. And you just remind yourself, ‘I’m going to the NFL,’ put it back and that will keep you on the straight and narrow.” Anything negative, I’ll block it out. If it’s positive, I’m with it. The only letters that drove my life were GOD and the NFL.
There had to have been times you easily could’ve detoured off of this. Were there times you felt that pull away from this track you were on?
Butler: Oh yeah. Easily. Because I had no friends. So the desperate attempt to have friends almost cost me. I’m claustrophobic. I don’t like elevators. I don’t like tight spaces. So I think we were like 14 years old, 15, and I went to hang out with these guys — I had no friends — and they were like, “Do you want to go to the store?” So my brother, me and a few other guys went to the store. My Mom gave me a couple of bucks, so I bought what I was going to buy and everybody bought stuff and my brother left because he had to go to work. We were about a mile away from the projects at like a department store. I bought my stuff and I’m out waiting for the guys and I said, “These guys are waiting too long.” So I went to look because I had to get home — you don’t want to be out after dark. I see one of the guys. Then, I see another guy coming out of a little hallway. And they looked different. They were shoplifting. All of a sudden, a bell went off. So I said, “I’m outta here.” And as I was leaving to go out the door, a cashier said, “That young man right there came in with these two other guys that got caught stealing.” So the security guy comes over to me and he grabs me and says, “Were you?” I said, “Here’s my bag, here’s my receipt. It’s stapled shut.”
This whole time, the police are on their way and I’ve never been in trouble so this is new to me. The police come in and it’s “OK, these guys are shoplifting” and they handcuff us. I’m starting to tear up and cry. Now, I go outside and there’s a cage inside this truck. A cage where you’d keep animals. I said, “What’s the truck for?” He said, “We’ve got to go to Juvey.” I said, “What’s that?” He said, “The Juvenile Detention Center.” I said, “I can’t get into that cage. I’m claustrophobic.” He said, “That’s where criminals go.” I said, “I’m not a criminal. I’ve got my bag and my receipt.”
I’m starting to freak out. The other two guys jumped up there like they’ve always done it, like it’s no big deal. By the grace of God Himself, the supervisor police come — he drives up in a different car. He gets out, he walks around, he sees me crying with this guy trying to convince me to get into this van. He says, “Let him sit up front with you.” That’s when I knew there was a God. Because I don’t know what would’ve happened if he put me in there. I would’ve freaked out. I can’t even imagine.
If they put you in that cage…
Butler: Oh my God. I’m going to freak out. I would’ve hit my head on the door thing and knocked myself out because I couldn’t have been conscious in there.
It’s almost a butterfly effect for you. If one thing is off or changes, we’re not talking right now. What else did you sidestep, avoid to even be sitting here talking and even thinking about the Hall of Fame?
Butler: That’s an excellent question because my grandmother used to always say, “You’re the perfect storm.” She said, “You always get the last piece of cake” — she’d make these great cakes. It was always something. Like, the last bus to go to the projects, if you miss it, you’ve got to walk like eight to 10 miles. So my grandmother said, “Don’t miss the bus or you’ll have to walk eight to 10 miles.” You had to walk over the Matthews Bridge. I’ll never forget this. I miss the bus. The bridge, you can walk across it but — from you to the traffic — that little walkway is like two feet wide. And it’s a huge bridge. They’ve torn it down since. If you go to the left, you’re going to get hit by traffic. If you go to the right, you’re going to fall off the bridge. But this was the only way I could get home.
When I’m starting to walk up the bridge, the nicest policeman in the history of policemen puts his lights on: “Little man! Where you going?” I said, “I missed the bus. I gotta walk home.” He said, “Get in, man, it’s too dangerous!” So, I went in the front seat and he took me home, walked me up, knocked on the door, “Mrs. Butler! I’ve got your son!” And when she heard that, she said, “Thank you.” And he handed me his card and said, “Little man, if you ever need a ride, call me. Seven people have died walking across that bridge this month.” Because people who don’t have money for the bus, walk and either get hit by a car or it’s windy or something, they stagger, and they go in the St. Johns River.
So, it’s not just shootouts and gangs. Even the bridge is dangerous.
Butler: Every day, it’s something. The Matthews Bridge was a dangerous bridge but that’s the only way you could get to the other side. If you missed that last bus at 10:18 p.m., people would walk. That policeman looked at me — he had glasses and pulled them down to his nose — and said, “Listen, seven people have died this month. If you ever need a ride, call me.” He said to find a pay phone and dial “0” and tell the operator and give them my name.
My Mom hugged me so tight and cried and said, “Why didn’t you call me?” I said, “I don’t know. I just walked.” I wanted to be independent. Walking for me was like telling Michael Phelps to go swim. I enjoyed it because I couldn’t do it — I liked walking. I’d do eight to 10 miles no problem. But that bridge is dangerous. It was a death trap.
You go to Florida State, you’re an All-American, you’re one of the best players in the country. Everything kind of came together for you really quickly in college.
Butler: Coach Bobby Bowden is a saint. When he found out I was a consensus All-American and a Prop 48 — I did not pass the SAT so I can’t go to college. So all the letters I got from Notre Dame, USC, you name it, I was an All-American. I got scholarships from everywhere. When they found out my test scores, all of these schools pulled back. Not Coach Bowden. Coach Bowden said, “I need him. I’ve got to have him.” He came to my basketball games. I said, “Why is he still coming? He knows I’m Prop 48.” And then Miss Gordon — “Flash Gordon” — she said, “No, no, no, each school can bring six guys in. The schools are just deciding not to work with you because you didn’t pass the SAT.” That’s what made her upset. She got emotional. But she said, “Florida State said you can come!” Man, I jumped up and gave her a high-five.
She’s reading all the rules and says I can’t play my freshman year. My Mom couldn’t fill out the paperwork because she was working all the time. And that’s when I said, teachers don’t do this for the money. They do it because they love kids. I said, “There’s no way Coach Bowden is going to give me a scholarship.” She says, “Yes, he will because you’re a great person. You just need help.” Coach Bowden called Miss Gordon and said he had to make a home visit — “I want to go to this young man’s house and tell him how much we believe in him.”
Coach Bobby Bowden called me. I was on a rotary phone. I’m giving him directions. I’m saying, “Coach, you may not want to come to the projects because… I know you go to all these places but you don’t wanna come here!” And he goes, “Oh, LeRoy, c’mon! Just give me your address!” The address was 642 Court H. I didn’t want to give that to him because if I gave that to him, he’d see that on a map and go, “Hell no.” But he didn’t care. I gave it to him and he showed up. I told him, “They’re going to look at you weird. White folks don’t come down here.” He laughed for 20 minutes. So he came down, met my Mom and fell in love with the story.
And you turned it around? You were able to get your grades where you needed to in order to play?
Butler: Yeah, it was awesome. My freshman year, they went to play Michigan and I’m waving bye — “Hey, guys! Have fun!” Other players are looking at me like I’m nuts but I said, “One day, that’s going to be me.” They beat Michigan, too. But I didn’t go because I was in Proposition 48. When they got back, I was the first one at the airport hugging them. Every time they went to away games, I was the only one who’d drive out there and wave to them. Coach Bowden said he’d get emotional about it.
From the wheelchair to the braces to your friend dying to the bridge, it all had to make you as a person obviously. But even as a player. Was this all your edge once you were able to play for the Seminoles. Did everything that made you who you are translate to the field?
Butler: To me, it was all new. I didn’t know what to expect. It was like I was outside of my body watching myself grow up. It was like when we first played Miami, my senior year I visualized getting a pick and the first play I got a pick. I called my Mom and said, “Mom, I know how my life is going to end up.” She said, “You’re living a dream.” A kid from the projects, poverty, special ed, to make it to college is a great story. I remember I made a phone call and I said, “I just met Bob Hope. I’m a consensus All-American. My dream may come true. I may get drafted.”
I was the biggest Cowboys fan. Ever, ever. Put it this way: When they lost games, in my late teens, I would cry. I was 17 years old and I would cry. My dream would’ve been to play for the Cowboys. My Mom said, “I don’t care who calls this phone.”
And Green Bay, Wisc., is a little different than the projects of Jacksonville.
Butler: Lindy Infante told me this. I’ll never forget this conversation. He said, “We’re going to select you but do you have any questions?” Back then, the good players didn’t want to go to Green Bay so they’d talk to you first. I said, “Coach, I do have one question: Where’s Green Bay?” He laughed his ass off. I had never been to Wisconsin before. I couldn’t even point Wisconsin out on a map. I had no idea.
I was so happy to get that phone call. I said that day, “I’m never leaving, I’m never getting traded, even if I have to take three pay cuts (which I did), I’m never leaving because they saved my life.”
Did it ever hit you that you’re being used in ways a safety hadn’t been used before? You’re in the 20 sacks, 20 interceptions club. You’re near the line. You’re covering in the slot. When did you know you were in the middle of an evolution of the game?
Butler: Ray Rhodes. He’s my guy. Ray Rhodes (the defensive coordinator) called me when they were going to draft Terrell Buckley (fifth overall) and they wanted to move me from corner to safety. He said, “If you do this, we think you’ll be a great safety.” So I give a lot of credit to Mike Holmgren and Ray Rhodes — Ray Rhodes had this vision of a third wide receiver coming in the game and not going to dime. He said, “That gives away everything. I want to stay with base.” So I’d cover the third wide receiver, cover the best tight end or whatever and the linebacker could go blitz — and that just took me to a whole other level.
Meanwhile, the team you were worshipping, the Cowboys, just kept kicking your ass there in the early 90s. That’s the team you had to get past.
Butler: Exactly. My childhood team was the team that was our nemesis. And my favorite player in the world — two of my favorite players — are Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. They’re my best friends. Other than my teammates. Put this in all caps: Michael Irvin is the BEST FRIEND anybody could have. He thinks about you before him. And Emmitt Smith is platinum. I love Emmitt Smith. They were just great guys. We competed now. We competed. When we got ‘em up to Lambeau, we knocked them off.
I dared people to throw it to tight ends: “You better not. Are you kidding me?” I was at the top of my game in the mid-90s.
That ‘96 defense, when you talk about the best ever, it could be in the conversation. What made that group special?
Butler: Unselfish. We didn’t care who got the sacks. Reggie White, we had leadership. In Brett Favre, on offense, we had a guy who was fearless. We had the perfect team. So unselfish. You just don’t get that very much.
You had injuries, too. All kinds of turmoil.
Butler: The happiest day of my life was when we got Desmond Howard. Oh my goodness. Desmond has the third best smile of all-time — I’m No. 1, Donald Driver is No. 2 and he’s No. 3. I’m being biased of course. When I saw his smile come through the door, “Look at God!”We finally got a special teams guy. One of the best of all-time. And this is before the season got going. This is long before he was the Super Bowl MVP. We had the No. 1 offense, the No. 1 defense but our special teams was lacking.
In the Super Bowl win, against the Patriots, did you ever think you’d lose?
Butler: That Super Bowl game was tough. They jumped out on us a little bit. But I remember on the sideline, we had a little conference. I was doing the talking. I said, “Just keep doing what you’re doing. You’re too good. Eventually, we’ll take over the game.” The next thing you know, things just turned. Reggie got a sack. He got another sack. And I got a sack. The next thing you know, that thing was a wrap.
Do you replay all these good memories and good plays and games or do you ever think back to that second Super Bowl night in San Diego or T.O.’s catch in San Francisco? You were around for some tough losses, too.
Butler: Oh yeah. Had we stayed together, we could’ve won three Super Bowls easily. I say that all the time. All the time. If Holmgren had stayed instead of going to Seattle, if we had brought back Sean Jones, if we had brought back some other guys, we could’ve had a dynasty. We could’ve had what Bill Belichick had. That was in my head all the time.
And if you play Denver 10 times, you’re probably beating them eight times.
Butler: Oh yeah. We had some injuries. Obviously, we would’ve done some things differently. Yeah, yeah. I think Denver would even say that. I’ve talked to Mike Shanahan about it. He always said their gameplan was to stop LeRoy Butler. Not Reggie White. They knew I would follow Shannon Sharpe so they split Shannon out wide and that got me out of the box. What we should’ve done is put me in the box and let a corner go over there to cover Shannon, so I could stop the run. Terrell Davis started running the ball and I’m way away from the action.
It just goes to show your value and your importance to the game. Here we are. You’re up for the Hall again. Why should you be in the Hall of Fame?
Butler: I thought All Decade gets you in. And it seems like I’m the only first-team All Decade in the 90s not in. Let’s put him in and close this decade out and start from 2000 to 2010. I’ve waited 15, 20 years just to be a semifinalist, to be a finalist last year. And this year, if I go in, it’ll be amazing.
Are you nervous?
Butler: No, no, no. I’ve got anxiety so I’m used to it. But last year, I was really nervous. First-time finalist and I’m getting all this attention. All of these gold jackets are coming up to me: “Man! I thought you were already in!” It felt great. I was really nervous, man, because I didn’t know if I’d get a knock or a phone call.
I didn’t know you had anxiety. Is that something you still deal with?
Butler: Oh yeah, I’ve been getting therapy once a week for years. You’ve got to get therapy. We had a sports therapist on our team and I used to talk to her when we won games, not just when we lost.
Here, you’re one of the happiest guys anybody could talk to, and you’d never know you had anything close to anxiety. Is there depression, too?
Butler: I think it’s all the same. It really is. You just have good days and bad days. I have so many good days that I’m thinking, “The bad is coming! The bad is coming!” She says, “No, it’s not. Nothing’s going to happen.”
That’s how D.J. Chark described it to us — a “fear.” You’re just afraid. And it’s nothing specific. It’s just kind of there?
Butler: Yes, yes. It’s like a parent with your child. You want to be a helicopter Dad. Because you don’t want him to fall down. You don’t want him to burn himself. You’re always thinking that but he’s sitting there right in front of you playing. But your mind tells you, “When I take my eyes off of him to do some typing, somebody may come in and kidnap him. Oh my God!” No, that’s not going to happen. That brings you back to the real world. Otherwise, you have to take a bunch of medication to get that out of your head. But you don’t want to do that because you’ve got to work.
Are you in a good spot now dealing with it?
Butler: Oh yeah. Because I went to school for it. Social science and psychology. So I’m really a shrink. I talk to people. So, you almost know what the problem is. So what you try to do is put yourself in the position to where you know to tell yourself, “It’s not real.” Like a John Wick movie. I love John Wick. You love Superman but you know, “I’m not going to go jump off a building.” You have to find the reality part of it and once you find that, you’re good.
And you’re active all the time — on your radio show in Milwaukee, doing interviews like this, still involved with the team. Staying active has to help.
Butler: It really does. Now, when the depression sets in, that’s when you do have to have medication. Those bad thoughts can make you go to suicide.
Have you had those thoughts over the years?
Butler: No, not at all. I talk to guys that have, though. I know a player who has probably $30 million in the bank and he doesn’t owe anybody anything. He was a perfect player. He’s not a Hall of Famer but he made a lot of money, made some Pro Bowls — I know two guys actually — that were on the cusp of putting a gun in their mouth. And I know 10 to 12 real-life people who get to that place. They’re in so much pain mentally that they just want to get it over with. And they try to hurt themselves. I tell them, “Pain is when you’re gone. Your kids are at your funeral. Your Mom is at your funeral. Your wife is at your funeral. They all cry and you’re gone. That’s pain. The pain you’re going through is nothing. So you have to stay here and deal with it so those people don’t go through that.” I say, “You love your wife? You love your kids? You don’t want them to be in black suits.” That’s what a good therapist will do. They’ll snap you out of it. They let you know, “You’re more valuable here. So I’m going to show you real pain.”
So, you’re talking these people off the ledge?
Butler: They’re off the ledge with one arm. One arm. And they’re dreaming, “Just let go and it’s over.” So I take them to that dream: “This is what it’s going to look like. You’re going to be in a casket. And your family? Done. They don’t have a Dad. Your wife won’t have you.” You can even take it further: “Your wife will remarry some other NFL guy who’s a better lover than you, have more money than you, now you’re jealous.” That really gets them snapped out of it.
I imagine these are guys that if we heard their names, our jaws would hit the ground, too. We’d never know. We’d never be able to tell.
Butler: No doubt about it. That’s the genuine thing about it. Sometimes, you suppress it and you don’t want to tell people. But, again, that’s not the way to be. The way to be is to share your experiences because you can really help people.
If anyone’s reading this, you’re willing to help them I’d imagine.
I do have to get your thoughts on this Packers team. It’d be dumb to say the Packers won’t win the Super Bowl, right? You’d have fans coming after you. So why will the Packers win the Super Bowl?
Butler: The fans would know if I didn’t think they have a chance. I would say it. This is your best opportunity in 10 years. Every opportunity — all the NFC Championships — even last year going to San Francisco or going to Seattle, going to Atlanta, going to Chicago, this is the best opportunity. You’re the No. 1 seed overall. You’re at Lambeau Field. You have everything you could want. And you have, in my opinion, the best head coach. He lets the team do its thing. I’d be shocked if they’re not in the Super Bowl. Shocked.
Is there a player or a key to the game that we’re not going to be talking enough about all week that you think it could come down to against Tampa Bay?
Butler: MVS. MVS is going to be wide open. Nobody can cover him on a deep fly. He just has to catch it.
It’s going to come down to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, isn’t it?
Butler: Yeah! He’s going to be wide open. Tampa can’t cover him in an empty backfield set if he’s the third receiver going down the middle. On defense, Adrian Amos, No. 31, I could see him getting a pick-six, scoring and winning the game. He’s just smart, man. For the last month and a half, he played just as good as any safety, including Minkah Fitzpatrick and the “Honey Badger” and Jamal Adams. He played just as good as all of these guys, if not better.
And Tuesday is the big day for you. Canton. Hall of Fame. Feeling good about it?
Butler: I think it’ll be exciting. I really do.