GREEN BAY—LeRoy Butler leaped, and a connection was made that was further cemented today when the Packers unveiled their new "Lambeau Leap Wall" outside Lambeau Field.
The date was Dec. 26, 1993. Butler was racing toward the end zone with a fumble in a 28-0 win over the Los Angeles Raiders. Maybe it was the holiday cheer that overcame Butler. He says it was a fan's eyes.
"It was very spontaneous. I used to dance a lot. This time, there was one particular guy whose eyes said 'hug me,'" Butler said, as he stood next to the "Wall" he helped christen on Friday afternoon.
When Butler leaped into the fan's eyes and arms, he also leaped into the collective heart of Packernation. The south end zone, the same one in which Bart Starr scored the winning touchdown in the "Ice Bowl," added to its fame. It became Butler's end zone, too, and another tradition and moment of glory in Packers history was born.
Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy thanked Butler "for inventing the Lambeau Leap," and for helping take the cover off one of the few monuments in professional sports that celebrates the fans. Butler wanted it that way.
"I didn't want it to be me. I took three pay cuts to stay here because I love it here," he said.
"I thought about the connection with the fans. Everybody has a chance to have a connection with their favorite player. We're signing this over to the fans. I wish Reggie White was here to experience (this)," Butler said to a crowd of fans outside the new Packers Pro Shop.
White, of course, had lateraled the ball to Butler after recovering the Raiders fumble.
"This is the best place for (it)," Butler said. "If it wasn't for the fans, we'd be nobody. It's about game day for you guys," he added.
Murphy mentioned former Packers wide receiver Robert Brooks, "who took the Leap to another level." Brooks wrote a song about it.
"I think it's one of the great traditions in the NFL. It really personifies the connection the Packers have with their fans," Murphy said.
Immediately after Butler's leap, there was concern the league would turn thumbs down on yet another end zone celebration. Butler feared he would be fined. This time, the league gave its approval.
"If you want to do the Lambeau Leap, it's OK. You're not showing up the Raiders, you're celebrating with your fans," Butler said.
Butler credited Donald Driver with the best Lambeau Leap.
"The lady wouldn't let him go," Butler said. "How many times can you touch a player?"
Now, you can be a player. You can be your favorite player and leap into your own arms, just as Butler had leaped into the arms of Packers fans everywhere 21 years ago. Additional coverage - Aug. 1