Keith Butler Faces His Old Team in Super Bowl XL
Before there was “The Boz,” there was the Butler. Before Lofa Tatupu was even born, Keith Butler was making big plays as a linebacker for an aggressive, opportunistic Seahawks defense.
In 8 1/2 seasons, from 1978-86 and including the strike-shortened 1982 campaign, Butler averaged 95 tackles and still ranks No. 2 on the club’s all-time list with 813. This week, Butler is spending his time trying to devise ways to tackle Shaun Alexander as the linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers team that will play the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL on Feb 5.
“I finally make it to a Super Bowl, and who do I end up facing? My old team,” Butler said Monday from his office at the Steelers complex on the banks of the Monongahela River. “I’m happy for the Seahawks, but I’m happy to be in it, too. “It’s definitely weird, but it’s great.”
Except the part about Tatupu, the Seahawks’ second-round draft choice who has not played like a rookie this season. “You’re making me feel old. That guy wasn’t even in this world when I started playing,” Butler, now 49, said of Tatupu, who was born in 1982. Not only that, Butler has sons who are almost as old as Tatupu – Blake, 22; Brandon, 20; and Brett, 18.
Butler did more than just make tackles for the Seahawks during their run in the mid-80s, when they went to the playoffs four times in six seasons. His job description was expanded to include covering for freelancing linebacker Fredd Young, who went to the Pro Bowl in 1986-87; later teaching Brian Bosworth the NFL ropes; and, because of his Alabama and Tennessee roots, also serving as an interrupter for teammate Greg Gaines, whose Tennessee twang was so thick you couldn’t cut it with a chainsaw.
“Brian came into the league a little naive,” Butler said, using Bosworth’s given name rather than his manufactured moniker. “At Oklahoma, he was bigger, stronger and faster than anyone he played against. He tried to chest everything, and he struggled to get off blocks. At this level you have to learn to use technique, and your hat and hands to get off blocks.” One thing that didn’t change was Bosworth’s speed. “He probably had as much speed as anybody that I’ve ever played with,” Butler said. “That’s what allowed him to make the plays he did.”
Butler’s teammates always talked about him being a coach on the field, and he eventually took that career leap in 1990 when he joined the staff at his alma mater – formerly Memphis State, now the University of Memphis.
“I’ve always enjoyed the game. I’ve always enjoyed the competition, probably more than anything,” Butler said. “Once you’ve been doing something like that all your life, it’s kind of hard just to stop doing it.” But the final decision was a joint one between Butler and his wife, Janet. “She told me she kind of missed it,” he said. “She’s pretty competitive, too.”
Butler explained how the hours would be a lot different than when he was a player. “But she understood all that,” he said.
After eight seasons at Memphis and one as the defensive coordinator at Arkansas State, Butler became the linebackers coach with the Cleveland Brows (1999-2002) before moving to the Steelers. “At some point in time, I do hope the Seahawks win a Super Bowl,” he said. “I just hope it’s not Super Bowl XL.”