Making His Dream Happen


A second round draft pick in 1990, LeRoy Butler has only missed 3 games in his NFL career

Packers Pro Bowl safety LeRoy Butler sits on the couch in the basement of his Jacksonville home, listening to music on headphones and watching game film.

"What makes this guy a good tight end?" he says aloud, analyzing the Denver Broncos' Shannon Sharpe.

Butler always seems to have a plan.

"When the week of the game comes," he says, "I don't need a scouting report, I have my own notes, and then I'm already halfway there."

With football on his mind, a Super Bowl ring on his finger and financial security, the three-time All-Pro could easily forget about the Blodgett Homes projects in Jacksonville, where he grew up.

But Butler has a plan for that, too.

He wants to build a 30,000-square foot, $2-million sports facility in the middle of the inner city, blocks from his boyhood home.

"You have kids there who want to play basketball so bad, they're walking in the dark to a court with one little light," Butler says.

"Every day, there is violence. I've seen people die, get killed. It really makes you want to do something."

But Butler never just plans something. The facility he's designing not only will have a basketball court and an indoor pool, but also will have classrooms.

"We really need it in the inner city," he says. "Here you can play basketball without the violence, and between games you can go up and work on your SAT and ACT scores when you're in the 10th grade. So when you have to take it in 12th grade, you're accustomed to it."

Butler was once a Proposition 48 casualty, meaning his grades were too low to participate in college sports as a freshman.

"So it's easier for me to talk with the kids about it," he says.

Butler and the kids held a basketball tournament last May in Jacksonville to raise money for the LeRoy Butler Foundation facility, and have earned $600,000 total.

When Butler opens his facility, it won't be the first obstacle he has successfully fought. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother didn't have much money.

"(My mom) raised five kids on her own, and never asked for any help from the government or anyone," he says.

As a child, the bones in his feet were so weak and pigeon-toed that he needed a wheelchair until age 8.

But things suddenly changed when his sister accidentally knocked him out of his chair. He got up and walked.

And ran. And ran.

Florida State and the Green Bay Packers were next.

That's impressive enough. Unless, of course, you're LeRoy Butler.

"He's always looking for that perfect game," Green Bay defensive backs coach Bob Valesente says. "And it's really hard to get. But with that type of approach, it's no secret why he's successful."

"One of my biggest goals is to be in the Hall of Fame," Butler says. "And I know I'm going to have to play at a very high level for the next five years to do that. So I expect that. If I don't make it, it was a wasted career - that's my mindset."

Last season, that mindset helped him lead a Packers defense which did not give up a touchdown pass in its final 35 quarters of play, including playoffs. And Butler shut out Sharpe in Super Bowl XXXII when he covered him.

But his toughest assignment yet may be covering the kids in his old Jacksonville neighborhood. That shouldn't be a problem for Butler, though.

"I enjoy joking with the kids," he says. "And they say, 'Wow, he signs autographs for free and he's a nice guy, and he's from here.' They know they can be successful, too."

Just like the kid from the Blodgett Homes.

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