That moment has stayed with Butler, who is now the only offensive or defensive player on the ’90s All-Decade Team not in the Hall of Fame after former Denver safety Steve Atwater was one of the five finalists to be chosen last Saturday.
It’s not that Butler feels like he’s received the short end of the stick in the voting process. It’s more like the exact opposite. An eternal optimist, Butler maintains a glass-half-full mentality as his time is drawing near for a call to Canton.
Meanwhile, Butler was thrilled for both Atwater (elected in his 16th year of eligibility) and former Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu, who was voted in on the first ballot. All weekend, Butler enjoyed his interactions with Atwater, Polamalu and fellow finalist John Lynch during various Hall of Fame events. He and Atwater hugged every time they came into contact with each other in Miami.
Butler believes all four are deserving. It’s nobody’s fault there was a backlog at safety for so many years, which began to unclog three years ago when four-time All-Pro Kenny Easley was selected as a senior nominee to the Hall of Fame.
“I was so happy for Steve Atwater,” Butler said. “He was so nice to me all week. John Lynch, Troy, we all know we’re going to get in one day. We’re not trying to pull each other down to get in there. Steve, the guy has been a finalist forever. As a matter of fact, Steve getting in now makes me the only All-Decade member of our decade who’s not in from the first team. That’s a good thing.”
Butler felt his biggest victory came last month when he was named a finalist for the first time. That meant his case would be heard in the room where the voting happens. From what Butler was told from Baker and other Hall of Fame officials, more than 85 percent of finalists eventually are enshrined in Canton.
Overall, Butler and his wife had a great time in Miami. He got to meet Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach for the first time, had an emotional embrace with former Minnesota receiver and friend Cris Carter, and connected with former Rams receiver Isaac Bruce, who then was voted into the Hall of Fame.
The other moment Butler won’t soon forget is the text message he received from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers beforehand, wishing him luck and telling him he belongs.
“The message I got from Aaron Rodgers made me feel so much better,” Butler said. “That really meant a lot. It was just a very positive message about how he hopes I get in. That was nice.”
Butler appreciates all the support he received from Packers fans, both during the build-up to the Hall of Fame vote and in the immediate aftermath. He hopes to again be a finalist next year prior to Super Bowl LV in Tampa, which is less than two hours from where Butler grew up in Jacksonville.
“I’m looking forward to that. I’m jacked up,” Butler said. “My wife is looking forward to it. She loves Florida. She was like, ‘Oh man, it was supposed to be in LA but I heard it’s in Tampa. Whew, I hope we’re a finalist next year.’ If we have to wait another year, that’s fine. God is good.”