Nearly 40 years now, I spoke at a family day in Blodgett Homes, a large and old public housing project located in the present area of the state office building on Davis St. I was joined by two Lee high school (now Riverside) students: my son, Joey, and his friend and football teammate, Leroy Butler.
I told the crowd about a football game that season. Trailing late, 4th and long, the punter lined up to kick, with a back in place to protect him. The ball was snapped, but as their legendary coach, Corky Rogers, concocted, not to the punter. Catching the opponents by surprise, the ball went almost sideways to the blocker, who ran 60 yards to set up a touchdown, taking the team to state playoffs.
The story got the attention of the families – especially the kids. I told them the magic for me about that play was not so much the clever trickery or winning the game and going to playoffs; instead, it was that the center was my son, Joey, who lived with me, and that blocker/runner was his pal, Leroy, who lived with them in Blodgett. They worked together. Great success.
A speedster, Leroy, grew up under very difficult circumstances, including extreme physical deformities during childhood and long periods in a wheelchair. He had a loving, strong mother, and an unusually upbeat attitude. He always wore a smile. Still does.
Together, with sideline craftiness of Coach Rogers, Joey and Leroy helped their team accomplish something very special.
Several years later, FSU coach, Bobby Bowden (who no doubt had seen films of that game) sent Leroy into a crucial, similar situation against Clemson. Same circumstances. Same play. Same result. The “puntrooski”. It had been first really unleashed a few years earlier before a disbelieving high school crowd, who would not likely thereafter be surprised at the accomplishments of this young man at FSU Green Bay and now the NFL Hall of Fame. Leroy has done his city, his family, friends and schools proud. Probably more than he will ever know.