A wide receiver at St. Bonaventure turned defensive back with the Steelers, Butler revolutionized the defensive side of the ball and paved the way for the current cornerback position. When he retired in 1959, Butler ranked second on the NFL’s all-time interceptions list with 52.
Butler was presented with his Bronze Bust from his oldest son, John, the second of his three symbols of the Hall of Fame. The first was the Gold Jacket given to him last night, and the third will be a ring awarded during a Steelers home game this season.
“I have to give special thanks to my parents, my four brothers, my two sisters and wife, Bernadette,” Butler commented. “I’d also like to acknowledge our four sons and our four daughters, and our 15 grandchildren.
“It is important to acknowledge the Rooney and McGinley families,” Butler continued. “They have impacted my life and the lives of my entire family tremendously.”
Butler was a four-time Pro Bowler – all in consecutive years at the end of his career from 1956-59 where he accumulated 27 interceptions – but was not named to the team in his first five years despite picking off 23 passes in his first four seasons in the league. Additionally, 457 of Butler’s 827 career interception return yards (55.2 percent) came in his first three seasons.
In an era when teams only played 12 games a season, Butler’s 52 interceptions came over a span of just 103 games. To this day, his four interceptions in a single game against the Washington Redskins in 1953 remain tied for an NFL record, and are the most in a contest in Steelers history.
After thanking many family and friends, the 84-year-old Butler concluded his nearly four-minute speech by saying, “Heck, I’m thankful I’m here.”
Butler was the second of the six-member class enshrined at Fawcett Stadium, located directly across the street from the Hall of Fame. He is scheduled to take place in an on-field ceremony prior to Sunday’s Hall of Fame Game between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals.
The Pittsburgh native was inducted into the Hall back in February as a Senior Nominee when the Seniors Committee voted him in. The purpose of the Seniors Committee, made up of nine veteran members of the overall Hall of Fame Board of Selectors, is to consider and ultimately vote on players whose active careers have been completed 25 years of more from the current NFL season.