Butler completes long journey to Hall of Fame

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PITTSBURGH (AP) - Jack Butler had it all planned out.

Really, what was there to figure out?

Guys that play football at St. Bonaventure don’t get phone calls from NFL teams, not now and certainly not in 1951, when Butler graduated following a standout career at wide receiver.

So Butler headed home to Pittsburgh for the summer and got a job as an electrician to give him something to do before he returned to upstate New York and started on his master’s degree in the fall.

Then the phone rang. And everything changed.

When Pittsburgh Steelers business manager Fran Fogarty called and asked the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Butler to come to the team’s offices downtown, Butler figured Fogarty had the wrong number.

“I didn’t know who he was,” Butler said. “I didn’t know anything about professional football.”

Learning was hardly a problem. Fogarty and the Steelers were happy to teach him, signing Butler to a $4,000 contract and converting him to defensive back.

There wasn’t much to it. Butler used his experience as a wide receiver to become one of the best defensive backs of the 1950s in a career cut short by a devastating knee injury that remains painful to this day.

In his own way, Butler served as a precursor to the Steel Curtain that would follow two decades later. Tough. Gritty. Smart.

And now, like so many of the members of perhaps the greatest defense in NFL history, a Hall of Famer.

The 84-year-old Butler will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, next weekend after being selected by the senior committee for an honor he still can’t quite grasp.

“When he found out we were at the Super Bowl,” said John Butler, the oldest of Butler’s four sons. “He kept saying, `Is this for real? I’m really in? Is there another vote?’ No, that’s it Dad, you’re in.”

Then again, John Butler was hardly surprised by his father’s low-key reaction.

This is the same man who would let his sons play tackle football out back in their dad’s game-worn jersey. Who didn’t bat an eye when the kids would take signed game balls _ including the one from Butler’s record-tying four-interception game against the Washington Redskins in 1953 _ and have a catch in the street.

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