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LeRoy Butler's road to the Pro Football Hall of Fame started as a dream in a wheelchair on Jacksonville's Westside

The Jacksonville native was born pigeon-toed and was in a wheelchair as a kid. Butler, his family, and friends reflect on his inspiring journey from Duval to Canton.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The leap from Duval to Green Bay was quite the shock for Leroy Butler.

"I remember getting to the stadium and I went over to the thermostat and I saw a minus, I'm from Duval County and I saw a minus next to a 16 and I thought they really forfeit games I didn't think we play in games that cold," Butler said. 

Needless to say, Butler acclimated quickly and went on make four pro bowls, earn four first team all-pro nods, and win a Super Bowl in 1996. 

The stats already deserving of a Hall of Fame selection, but one play helped cement Butler's case as a Packer icon.

"I just remember causing a fumble and Mike Holmgren always said if you get a fumble and you're a defensive player don't lateral the ball, but Reggie [White] wanted to do it. It's Reggie White right. So Reggie laterals this ball, I'm running down the sideline and it's all spontaneous and when I jumped up there and you know hugging the best fans so that was my way of hugging the fans and loving them," Butler said with a smile.

The Lambeau Leap became legend in Wisconsin, on TV, radio and in every kid's backyard. "The Leap" made fans feel a part of the action.

"We're the only team that can say that not only do we love our fans on paper, but we love them in person as well and that's what the leap stands for," Butler said. 

A man with an infectious smile and physical gifts exclusive to an elite class of athlete, Butler grew up with the bright lights of the NFL in his dreams.

But, Butler thought his fantasy would never come alive, his late mother Eunice thought otherwise.

"She taught me a long line of things that you have a special needs kid who can't go outside, can't go swimming, can't do sleep overs you got to be a patient person and I think it all came about when my grandmother and my mom had a conversation that basically said god gives everyone a talent," Butler said. 

Butler was born pigeon-toed, wore braces on his legs as a child, and spent time in a wheelchair.  

"It was always be gentle with him, but being a big brother I didn't want to be gentle," Butler's brother, Mike, said with a smile. "We get on the bed in the house and the pillows were a touchdown, edge of the bed three yard line, you got to get to the pillows and I never gave him a break and he got about 14 or 15 he continuously got to the pillows," Mike Butler said. 

Mike Butler said LeRoy was tough and motivated as a kid despite being confined to a wheelchair. As LeRoy sat in his wheelchair, he wondered what his talent was? Not speed, strength, or agility. 

Instead it was something else, a talent that separates the good from the Hall.

"My grandmother will say your talent is you have a unique ability to ignore anything that is negative so I pretty much had that in my mind the whole time," Butler said. 

He overcame his physical disability and went on to star at Robert E. Lee High School and Florida State.

"We got our guy in, I said I'm proud of you. He earned it through coming up with challenges coming out of an environment where it's very uncomfortable to being an All-American," Butler's former high school teammate, Sylvester Pinckney said.  

He eventually went on to achieve his dream of playing in the NFL and get that knock, a moment his late mother prepared him for.

"She was always trying to say you just want to be in the room [discussion] because once you're in the room you're all G.O.A.T.S."

"Everything my mom taught us, the humbleness to accept what comes your way good or bad, to never be boastful, if someone needs something help them. Stand firm in what you believe, do it your way never stop...he's done that," Mike Butler said. 

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

    

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