CANTON, Ohio — LeRoy Butler entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the same enthusiasm with which he celebrated big plays at Lambeau Field.
The four-time All-Pro safety was the first of eight members of the Class of 2022 enshrined Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
“DJ Khaled said it best: ‘God did it,'” Butler began referencing the song. “When you play for the Green Bay Packers, it opens a lot of doors. When you win a Super Bowl, it opens more doors. When you get elected to the Hall of Fame, it opens up football heaven. It’s rare company.”
Butler drew applause from Jaguars fans who attended Tony Boselli’s induction when he mentioned growing up in Jacksonville.
“Thank you, Duval,” Butler said. “My mom, growing up poor, made us think rich every day because it’s not about what you’re wearing or what you have, it’s about how you act.”
Butler helped restore Green Bay’s glory days during a 12-year career. His versatility at safety set the standard for a new wave at the position and earned him a spot on the league’s 1990s All-Decade team.
Butler originated the “Lambeau Leap” and had a key sack in Green Bay’s Super Bowl victory over New England. He nearly became the first player in league history to finish his career with 40 interceptions and 20 sacks.
Sam Mills, the 5-foot-9 linebacker nicknamed “Field Mouse” during his 12-year career with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, was inducted posthumously after Butler. An inspiring figure, Mills overcame enormous obstacles to even make it to the NFL.
Mills played Division III college football and was not selected. He was released by the CFL’s Cleveland Browns and Toronto Argonauts and began his professional career with the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars. Jim Mora, who coached the Stars, brought him to New Orleans in 1986 and Mills never looked back.
“He was told he wasn’t good enough to play college football or old enough to play professional football and at the age of 27 he wasn’t young enough to play in the NFL and yet here we are celebrating today.” Melanie said. Mills, Sam’s widow.
Mills made 1,265 tackles, recovered 23 fumbles, 22 forced fumbles, had 20½ sacks and intercepted 11 passes in 12 seasons. He was also part of the first four playoff teams in Saints history and the first in Panthers history.
Mills became an assistant coach for the Panthers after his retirement. He was diagnosed with intestinal cancer prior to the 2003 season, but continued to train during his treatment and delivered what is known as his “Keep Knocking” speech on the eve of the club’s Super Bowl game with New England at the end of that season.
Mills died in April 2005 at age 45. His motto “Keep on hitting” is still the catchphrase of the Panthers.
In a year with no candidates on the first ballot, those elected endured long waits to get to the ballot.
Defensive tackle Richard Seymour didn’t wait long to savor his success in the NFL. He was part of three Super Bowl champion teams in his first four seasons with the New England Patriots.
Seymour pointed to the defensive stalwarts on those teams, but didn’t mention Tom Brady by name.
“We had a young quarterback, but we made it work,” Seymour said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Seymour had 57 1/2 career sacks in 12 seasons, the first eight in New England before ending his career with the Oakland Raiders.
“I’m overwhelmed with humility because it’s not about what this says about me, it’s about what it says about us and what we can do together,” he said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude that I did not get here alone. None of us did. None of us could have done it.”
Seymour, 42, choked up as he thanked his wife, Tanya.
“Football is what I do, but family is who I am,” he said. “Thank you for everything you added to my life. This day belongs to my family. The Scriptures teach that your riches are in your family.”
Seymour called his three children his “greatest joy”.
“Of everything I’ve accomplished, there is no greater honor than being your dad,” he said.
Seymour praised Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former Raiders owner Al Davis and his son, Mark Davis.
He attributed his success to the lessons he learned from Patriots coach Bill Belichick: work hard, be thorough in your preparation, support your teammates and respect your opponents.
“This wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Coach Belichick,” Seymour said.
Art McNally, longtime head of refereeing, gave a video speech after he was inducted as a contributor.