Jack Butler, The Former Steelers Defensive Great, Has Died At 85

Illustration for article titled Jack Butler, The Former Steelers Defensive Great, Has Died At 85

Jack Butler, who was a star defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the '50s and who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last summer, has died. He was 85.


The converted receiver once intercepted four passes in a game in 1953 — still an NFL record — and snared 52 for his career in an era when almost no one did such things. He's tied for 26th all-time in interceptions, but only one player ahead of him on that list, Emlen Tunnell, began his career before Butler began his, in 1951.

According to the Post-Gazette, Butler never played high school football and enrolled in a Canadian seminary before playing ball at St. Bonaventure, where the athletic director happened to be the brother of Steelers president Art Rooney. After Butler when undrafted, he got a call from the Steelers and earned the last roster spot in Pittsburgh. The third-string receiver was thrown into the defensive backfield because of injuries and went on to become one of the best defenders in the league for a decade. A gruesome knee injury ended his career after 96 games.

In retirement he turned to scouting, and worked with the Steelers for another 40 years. When the team celebrated its 75th anniversary, it named Butler to its team of the best 33 Steelers ever.

Ten months ago, as he was preparing to be inducted to the Hall of Fame, he was asked his feelings. "I can't judge myself and I don't think anybody can really judge themselves," Butler replied. "For me to say 'I deserve to be here,' 'I should be here,' that's a bunch of nonsense. I'm here. I'm glad I'm here. It doesn't get any better than this."

He died Saturday. The Associated Press reported that Butler had been hospitalized for the past few months "dealing with a staph infection that plagued him since his career ended in 1959."

Steelers Hall of Famer Jack Butler dies at 85 [Associated Press]

Photo credit: AP