LeRoy Butler and Robert Brooks form the Packers' Class of 2007.
Butler, a playmaking safety named to the NFL's all-1990s team, invented the Lambeau Leap. Brooks, a graceful, tough-as-nails, big-play wide receiver, perfected it.
Butler (1990 to 2001) was about as good as it got at the position. He didn't knock people senseless with big hits, a la Ronnie Lott, but he did knock opponents senseless with his ability to make game-changing plays.
Only a broken shoulder blade suffered midway through the 2001 season separated Butler from being the only player in NFL history to finish with 40 interceptions and 20 sacks. As it stood, he retired with 38 interceptions — fourth most in team history — and 20.5 sacks.
Not bad numbers, and as a five-time All-Pro and anchor of the 1996 defense which is one of the finest in NFL history, he deserves a better fate from Pro Football Hall of Fame voters, who failed to vote him among the 15 semifinalists last year.
For all his accolades and accomplishments, Butler's legacy will be creating the Lambeau Leap. During a frigid game in December 1993 against the Los Angeles Raiders, Reggie White scooped up a fumble and lateraled to Butler, who strode down the left sideline for a 25-yard touchdown. Upon crossing the goal line, he pointed to the crowd, and surprised the Packers faithful by practically jumping into their laps.
"Right before I get into the end zone, I point to the stands like ‘I'm going to jump -- catch me,'" Butler wrote in his 2003 book, "The LeRoy Butler Story: From Wheelchair to Lambeau Leap."
"Everyone just rushes toward the low wall and reaches down. I spike the ball and run to jump up to them, and at that moment the stadium has never been louder.
"Because I had pointed, the fans just knew what they had to do. I go up into the green padding … and when I'm halfway up, a guy starts pulling me up the rest of the way. Everyone right behind him grabs on. Everyone is screaming and yelling. Some are complimenting me with ‘awesome' or ‘good job.' It lasts only 2 or 3 seconds, and I'm back down.
"It's an incredible feeling as I run back to the bench. Dorsey Levens and a lot of other teammates keep telling me how cool that moment was. It took off from there. Ever since, every time we make a big play, there's the Lambeau Leap."
Brooks (1992 to 1998) turned the Leap into a signature celebration. "It made me feel like a rock star," he once said.
He finished an explosive career with 306 catches for 4,225 yards and 32 touchdowns – including 13 during a Leap-filled, breakout 1995 season in which he hauled in a team-record 1,497 receiving yards. He ranks 11th in team history in receptions, and would have piled up bigger numbers had his career not come to a premature end because of a litany injuries.
Former Packers coach Mike Holmgren called Brooks "pound for pound the toughest player I ever coached." Brooks, who was a wiry 180 pounds, took a beating while frequently hauling in Brett Favre's lazer-beam slant patterns.
A knee injury suffered during the 1996 season kept him from playing during the Packers' run to the Super Bowl championship.
Brooks returned to play in 1997 — catching 60 passes for 1,010 yards and seven touchdowns — but the knee injury led to a changed stride which led to a career-ending back ailment.
The 37th annual Hall of Fame induction banquet will be held in the Lambeau Field Atrium on July 21.
Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to email@example.com.