RACINE — Former defensive Green Bay Packer, LeRoy Butler, is tackling bullying, one school at a time through Butler vs. Bullying.
After retiring from his days of leaping at Lambeau Field, the standout athlete is sharing his personal story of overcoming a disability and growing up in a poverty-stricken area, to connect with children across the state of Wisconsin through his platform, Butler vs. Bullying.
Butler, a member of the Class of 2022 Hall of Fame, made a stop at Mitchell School, 2701 Drexel Ave., on Wednesday, to share the ‘Butler vs. Bullying’ program with students.
Students welcomed Butler yelling “Go Pack, Go!” with excitement prior to the assembly.
Butler vs. Bullying
Through the Butler vs. Bullying campaign, the XXXI Super Bowl Champion is bringing professionals, teachers, parents, families, and students together to discuss – in an open format – the social problems that derive from bullying. He hopes his efforts will help students to develop positive peer relationships and find possible solutions to bullying.
“I say this all the time: we won’t change the world, it is the kids who are sitting on the floor who will wake up one day (and) say, ‘you know we’re all the same. We’re human beings,'” said Butler.
He believes in the future and the children at Mitchell to successfully reduce the rate of bullying.
“You don’t have to be a Packer fan to understand this message,” said Butler. “I wanted to do something that was close to me and that’s why I chose Butler Vs. Bullying, to be friends and not enemies.”
More than the game
Butler played his entire professional football career, from 1990 until 2001, with the Green Bay Packers. He was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame 1990’s All-Decade team, a 4-time Associated Press All-Pro selection, and a 4-time NFL Pro Bowl selection.
As the inventor of the Lambeau Leap, Butler is recognized for the many contributions he made on the field. He was even the first player in NFL history to record 20+ sacks and 20+ interceptions in a career, making him a standout athlete.
The journey to fame and success, however, didn’t come without challenges.
His early life was met with physical hardships. Born with a severe case of Pigeon toe, Butler’s doctors were forced to break the bones in both of his feet in an attempt to fix the problem when he was just eight months old.
This brought mobility difficulties for Butler. Walking was a major challenge for Butler, who spent much of his early youth in a wheelchair. Between the ages of six and eight, he had to wear leg braces too. Butler vs. Bullying isn’t just a new catchphrase; it was a way of life for him.
Challenges built character
In school, he didn’t enjoy the same accessibility that his able-bodied classmates had.
“I couldn’t go to certain parts of the school to do things, and especially on the playground. I couldn’t run or jump like other kids. Instead of like running and jumping, they (other students) thought it was funny to pick on me,” reflects Butler.
These experiences built Butler’s character.
“I’d laugh,” he said. Then he would tell those bullies, “you’re wasting great weather and your 100% legs and arms, trying to be funny.”
His teachers were always amazed by how he handled those situations too. They told him, “you’ve got the best sense of humor and nothing bothers you,” recounted Butler.
When others didn’t believe in Butler, he believed in himself. He knew that one day, those bullies would be the ones asking for his autograph, they would be the ones reflecting on their behavior and wishing they would’ve acted differently.
Along with his disability, and through no fault of his own, Butler was raised in a high-crime area in Jacksonville, Florida.
“I can really speak to this,” said the retired Green Bay Packer.
Butler shared how people can be poor and live in poverty, have “poor clothing,” and have “poor life circumstances,” but it shouldn’t determine the trajectory of one’s life.
Butler is working to tackle the bullying problem by sharing his story of being bullied. His hope is that he is an inspiration to school-aged children.
Not only has he carried #36 on the back of his jersey, but he has always carries this message in his heart that his mom told him as well: “A heart of a champion is helping people who you don’t know.”
Today, Butler accomplished that in Racine.
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