The invitation is 22 years late, but LeRoy Butler is thrilled to finally get it.
Butler, the former All-Pro safety for the Packers, is headed to New York City for the NFL draft. He’ll be the Packers’ alumni player who announces Green Bay’s second-round pick on Friday, April 27, at the Radio City Music Hall podium. Jim Taylor handled the duty last year.
Butler desperately wanted to be invited to the draft in 1990, when he was a highly touted prospect coming out of Florida State, but that call never came.
“When I did not get a chance to go, I was so very disappointed,” Butler told packers.com in a phone interview. “I just remember saying that means I’m not going in the first round.
“But here’s an opportunity for me to re-live this from 20-something years ago. I get a chance to go to New York now to see what the process is like.”
Butler had no qualms about how things turned out back then. The Packers selected him in the second round with the 48th overall pick, and he went on to a decorated career that included four first-team All-Pro selections, two Super Bowl appearances, and the invention of a touchdown celebration that seemingly never gets old, the “Lambeau Leap.”
In 1990, Butler was joining a Green Bay team that had appeared in the playoffs just once in the previous 17 seasons, but he came in with the right attitude and helped turn things around.
“I had the mentality that I wanted to be part of something that was going to change the culture there,” he said. “It was a challenge to me. It would have been easy to just go to a team like San Francisco or Dallas and sit around and enjoy the ride. But with the Green Bay Packers, I felt like going in there and rolling my sleeves up and starting to change the winning attitude around there. I looked at it as a big challenge.”
He had an inkling before the draft he might be headed to Green Bay. Butler said he interviewed with 14 teams at the combine, but his conversation with Dick Jauron, the Packers defensive backs coach at the time, really stood out.
“I just knew we connected,” he said. “When I got the call from Green Bay, it just felt right because it was a good fit. They had an aging secondary, and they were starting over.”
Butler was part of an impressive draft class that also included linebackers Tony Bennett and Bryce Paup, and tight end Jackie Harris.
Now Butler will, in a small way, be a part of General Manager Ted Thompson’s 2012 draft class. He’s taking former Packers running back and radio show colleague Gary Ellerson with him to New York, and he considers it “an honor” to represent the Packers at the draft.
It also isn’t lost on him that – considering the Packers’ needs and the uncertainty surrounding Nick Collins’ future – he could very well announce a draft pick at his own position, safety.
“The Packers have always had a tradition of having a Pro Bowl safety, going back to when I started, then Darren Sharper and Nick Collins,” Butler said. “If Nick for some reason can’t play, which would break my heart, then they definitely have to find a replacement of some sort to go with Morgan Burnett, who’s going to be a great player. Hopefully, they can keep that tradition up.
“The good thing about Ted is he’s always got an ace in the hole and he’s always prepared. He proved that with the Aaron Rodgers pick.”