LeRoy Butler and Sterling Sharpe rank among the greatest players in Green Bay Packers history. However, neither made the cut for the 2017 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which trimmed its list of candidates down to 25 on Tuesday.
As part of its annual induction process, the Hall of Fame voters construct a long list of candidates and make cuts in several stages over several months. The voting committee included both Sharpe and Butler on its initial list, though as in previous years neither lasted deep into the process. Sharpe became eligible for consideration after the 1999 season with Butler becoming eligible after 2006.
Before Brett Favre ushered in an era of prosperity for the Packers in 1992, Sharpe provided a rare ray of hope for what had become a downtrodden franchise. By his second year in the NFL, he established himself as a Pro Bowler and All-Pro with a 90-catch, 1,423-yard campaign. He later earned All-Pro honors again during Favre’s first two seasons in Green Bay.
However, a severe neck injury ended Sharpe’s career abruptly in 1994 at the height of his powers. That season, he caught 94 passes for 1,119 yards and 18 touchdowns, then the second most ever in NFL history for a single season. Sharpe retired with 595 receptions, 8,134 receiving yards, and 65 touchdowns.
As Sharpe’s career concluded, Butler’s was just taking off. The safety earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors in 1993, becoming a team leader in the process. Along with future Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White, Butler helped mold the defense into a fearsome and dominant unit. That defense reached its apex in 1996 when it finished No. 1 in scoring and helped secure the Packers their first Super Bowl title since the Vince Lombardi era.
Butler’s legacy extends outside the lines as well. His pick-six on Dec. 26, 1993 resulted in the first of what became known as the Lambeau Leap, the Packers signature scoring celebration.