Jack Butler joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1951 as a free agent out of St. Bonaventure. Over the next nine NFL seasons, he established himself as one of the game’s most effective cornerbacks. He ranked as the NFL’s second all-time leading interceptor when he retired following the 1959 season.
Butler, also known as a great tackler, demonstrated his knack for finding the football beginning in his rookie campaign when he registered five interceptions. The following season he led the Steelers for the first of five times when he picked off seven passes. He had nine interceptions a season later in 1953 that included a record-tying four interceptions in a game against the Washington Redskins. A year later, he added four more interceptions to his career total, two of which he returned for touchdowns, an NFL record at the time.
Yet, despite the fact he recorded 25 interceptions in his first four seasons, personal accolades eluded Butler. It wasn’t until later in his career that he received his just due. Oddly, his first of four Pro Bowl nods came following the 1955 season, the only year of his career in which he failed to intercept a pass although he had two steals in his Pro Bowl debut. In his sixth season in 1956, he was selected as a second-team All-NFL choice. In 1957 he picked off a career-best 10 passes to share the league lead in that category. He was named first-team All-NFL. He added nine more interceptions in 1958 and had two interceptions in 1959 and was voted to the first-team All-NFL squad in each of those seasons.
Butler suffered a severe leg injury in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles late in the 1959 season when he became tangled up with Eagles’ tight end Pete Retzlaff away from the play. Unfortunately, the injury forced him into retirement. But, it was not before he left his mark on the game. In 103 games, Butler intercepted 52 passes which he returned for 827 yards, and had four pick-sixes. He also had four touchdown receptions and returned one fumble recovery for a score. Butler was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1950s.
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