Football HOF Profile: Jack Butler

The average career of an NFL football player is now 2.5 years meaning for many players they will not get their time to truly make an impact in the league. There are those who last much longer than the league average and are able to make their impacts over their time there. Then there are the few who make their impact immediately. The few players who enter the NFL and can make an impact try to sustain it throughout their career but if they can’t they burn out and become just another flash in the pan. The players who can are those players who make the Football Hall of Fame. Then there are the even fewer players who come in to the NFL and do not have much success or recognition through the beginnings of their careers but still end their careers considered one of the best to ever play. These athletes seemingly stay in the shadows for years until finally breaking out and are noticed by the league. This was the case for Jack Butler except Butler was never a bad player or even an average player for the beginning of his career. He just simply did not get the recognition for his play until the 1955 season when he earned his first Pro Bowl Selection. Surprisingly it was the only season where he did not earn an interception yet still his ferocious play earned him his first spot in the Pro Bowl. After the 1955 season Butler remained at the top of everyone’s list of great players as he began earning recognition as one of the best cornerbacks in the game. Year after year he continued to add interceptions for the Steelers and continued to build his legend. At the time of his retirement Butler rose to 2nd in all-time interceptions and ensured his spot among the best players in the game. It took him a while to get his recognition but eventually he rose to the point that many players hope to get to. As he retired he looked to be a future hall of famer but once again his recognition would take some time. After years went by Butler continued to lose out on a spot in the Hall of Fame but in 2012 he will get his shot on the senior ballot. Much like his career Butler’s time has come a little late but it has still come as he will go into the Hall and be immortalized as one of the best to ever play the game.

For Butler it was never an easy path as he made the NFL as an undrafted free agent when the Pittsburgh Steelers signed him in 1951. Coming out of St. Bonaventure did not help him much but once again he went generally unnoticed by most teams. In his first year in the NFL Butler quickly endeared himself to the Steeler faithful as he was able to intercept 5 passes and added a TD for a pretty successful rookie season. The AS he moved to his second season Butler did not let a second year hurt his ability as he did not have a sophomore slump. In fact he got better intercepting 7 passes for a total of 168 yards. This trend continued for Butler as in year three he intercepted 9 passes and one TD while in his fourth year he added 2 TDs while intercepting 4 passes. 1955 was not a good season for Butler on the stat sheet yet the league began to take notice of his solid play and great defensive ability. With no interceptions Butler’s play still earned him his first Pro Bowl selection in spite of the stat line. He was back to normal after an off-year intercepting 6 passes in 1956, 10 in 1957, and 9 in 1958, he also had 2 in 1959. Overall Butler was overlooked many times but that did not change the fact that he was one of the best cornerbacks in the game. His legend on the field is one of a solid player who was able to do everything he needed to do to win games. He was a player who did not make mistakes and forced the opposition to make mistakes. He will enter the hall as a player who few may remember but his legend as one of the most effective cornerbacks of his time has earned him a spot among the best players to ever walk onto an NFL field.

 

Jack Butler, CB (1951-1959)

6’1” 200 lbs

Pittsburgh Steelers

103 G

52 INT

827 ret yds

4 TD

– Named to the Pittsburgh Steelers Legends Team

– 3-time First Team All-Pro Selection

– 4-time Pro Bowl Selection

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