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Football heaven's gate finally open for LeRoy Butler during Hall of Fame enshrinement

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CANTON, Ohio — Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler wasn't an instant pick. Years passed. Time moved on. The glories of the past faded further into memory with each passing moment. Until Saturday. The well-earned moment finally arrived for Butler on Saturday when he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It was a long journey that Butler reflected on early in his speech at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

"When you make to the Green Bay Packers, some doors open up," Butler said.

"When you win a Super Bowl, all doors open up. When you make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the heavens open up. I'm in rare company. Only 362 players have made it to this point and I'm No. 357."

You could forgive a player like Butler for being bitter at the circumstances. He had to wait more than a decade to be enshrined despite winning a Super Bowl in Green Bay and being named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 1990s. There was no hint of that in Butler's speech.

"Sixteen years is a long time," Butler said. "I can tell you it was worth the wait. Thank you very much to all who helped me get here."

Leroy Butler delivers his speech during the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton Ohio, Saturday, August 6, 2022.
Leroy Butler delivers his speech during the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony held at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton Ohio, Saturday, August 6, 2022.

Butler's speech lasted just over five minutes and he kept the focus mostly on his family and coaches that made an impact in his life. One of those stories was about former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden.

"I was a Prop 48," Butler said. "Coach Bowden drove right down into the inner city projects in Florida. We saw that and told him that you can't just drive in here. You need to ease your way in here. He told my mother that he was there to give her baby a scholarship."

Butler made the most of that scholarship and was ultimately selected in the second round of the NFL draft by Green Bay. The fit was perfect. The rest is history.

"I want to thank fans in Green Bay," Butler said. "Without you, there is no LeRoy Butler. I'd like to thank all of my teammates. You saw (former Packer) Gilbert Brown in my introduction. I love all of you. It didn't happen often, but I felt like if I had a bad game I could always rely on my teammates to carry me."

This article originally appeared on The Repository: LeRoy Butler: Football heaven opens in Hall of Fame speech