Butler is joined in the 2012 induction class by Curtis Martin, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Willie Roaf and Dermontti Dawson. No player in history has had to wait longer than Butler’s 50 years to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
ESPN will televise the ceremony beginning on Saturday, Aug. 4, at 7 p.m. Coverage will be available on GoBonnies.com and all our social media platforms throughout the weekend, beginning Friday and concluding Sunday evening at the Hall of Fame Game between the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals, where Butler will be honored prior to the contest. Additionally, the NFL has developed the hashtag #PFHOF12 for fans to interact with on Twitter all weekend.
Butler, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame during Super Bowl weekend this past February, becomes the fourth St. Bonaventure alum in professional sports halls of fame. Baseball legends John McGraw, class of 1895, and Hugh Jennings, class of 1897, for whom the University’s athletic fields are named after, are in the Baseball Hall of Fame; and Bob Lanier, ’70, is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
With Butler’s induction, St. Bonaventure becomes the smallest Division I school in the nation to have members in three of the four major professional sports halls of fame (NHL).
“Jack Butler from Pittsburgh, Pa., by way of St. Bonaventure University, and here I am. … It’s really an honor and a privilege,” said Butler following his induction in February.
Butler was a wide receiving star at Bonaventure, despite never having played the game in high school. In fact, he had visions of becoming a Catholic priest. Shortly after he enrolled at St. Bonaventure, Fr. Silas Rooney – SBU’s athletic director at the time and brother of Pittsburgh Steelers founder and owner Art Rooney – encouraged Butler to try out for the football team.
Despite going undrafted in 1951, the Steelers signed Butler to a professional contract and converted him to a defensive back. He remained with the team until a devastating knee injury in 1959 cut his career short, but not before going down as one of the most revered and feared defensive players in the game. “He hit so hard he would hurt himself,” Art Rooney Jr. has famously said.
At the time of his retirement, Butler ranked second in NFL history with 52 interceptions. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-NFL First Team selection and was named to the All-NFL Team of the 1950s.
Butler’s four interceptions in a single game in 1953 remain a Steelers record to this day, and are tied for the most in NFL history.
Despite his prowess on the defensive side of the ball, many – including former Steelers quarterback Jim Finks – said Butler would have also been a great offensive player. He spent a short time on the offensive side of the ball at the beginning of his career, but ultimately was able to parlay his great hands on offense into his interception records on defense. Over his nine-year career, Butler had seven catches, but four of them went for touchdowns.
After Ralph Wilson hired him in 1960 to coach with the Buffalo Bills, Butler was hired by the Steelers as a scout the following year. Shortly thereafter, Butler organized BLESTO, and for nearly 45 years, until 2007, served as the head the scouting service currently used by 12 NFL teams, including the Bills and Steelers.
In 1970, he was inducted in the SBU Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2009, the University awarded him an honorary degree, citing his example of dedication to sport, but not at the expense of values, family and faith.
In 2008, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the team, the Steelers honored Butler as one of the 33 members of the Pittsburgh Steelers Legends team.
Butler’s daughter, Maureen, is a member of the St. Bonaventure National Alumni Association Board and her husband, Bob Maier, graduated with her in 1978.
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