(WIVB) — Jerry Butler calls himself an “adrenaline junkie.”
That’s why that after a long career in football, that included an eight-year playing career with the Bills, shaped him into running a business to help today’s generation of football players.
Butler played for the Bills from 1979 until 1986 as a wide receiver and turned that into a long front office career, serving as the director of player development for the Bills (1990-1999), Cleveland Browns (1999-2010), where he helped bring back the second iteration of the franchise, Denver Broncos (2010-2015) and Chicago Bears (2015-2017), he decided to turn away from football and start a business.
His business, based in Chicago, is called Butler Brand Products, where he specializes in athletic wear and other training material. Right now, it’s mostly designed for wide receivers and defensive backs. He has worked with some colleges to get them athletic wear and has had some partners from out of state to help in this endeavor. He also takes classes to help him advance even further into what he wants to do next in his business.
“So that kind of makes it unique, but also kind of difficult at the same time. But I try to keep myself around sports as much as I can,” Butler said. “But I like things that just jump-guard my adrenaline, so that’s probably why I’ve always been attracted to football. For me, it was the only sport that really got me revved up… I just wanted to stay around the sports industry and build a business around that.”
However, his post-football job isn’t the only time Butler has run his own business.
In 1983, four years into his playing career, Butler, along with teammate Mark Brammer, started up a construction company based in Springville called Butler Construction Company. The company began as a result of the labor strike in 1982, which got Butler thinking about what would happen after his playing career was over.
So, he started the business. Later on, that turned into an opportunity to help run a program to help minorities in the NFL create management off the field, helping run the program when John Butler was hired by the Bills in 1987.
“I kind of got recruited out of the business and back into the NFL because the NFL was looking to create an opportunity for minorities to go into management, so I was kind of chosen to lead that path,” he said.
“It was tough at the time because there wasn’t a lot of minorities involved off the field,” Butler said. “We met and we talked several times and we came to a meeting of the minds to where I want to go in the business and he allowed me the opportunity to do that. And Mr. (Ralph) Wilson was one of the greatest individuals you ever want to work for as owner of a sports franchise, I love him to death. He was all-in and wanted me to come be a part of what they were building.”
That lifelong friendship and admiration for Ralph Wilson is something that even started in Butler’s playing days.
“Coming there, Mr. Wilson would tell me this, he said, ‘we didn’t bring you to the team for your good looks. We brought you here to beat the Miami Dolphins, okay?’ That was his thing, he would remind me,” Butler said. “I remember the first time we were able to defeat them and the team and the town celebrated Mr. Wilson, he cried.”
He also thought back to the best game of his career, just the fourth one of his career as he caught 10 passes from Joe Ferguson for 255 yards and got into the end zone four times to help the Bills to a 46-31 win against the New York Jets.
“I thought that kind of brought a level of excitement to what we were doing,” Butler said.
He thinks back to his time in Buffalo fondly and still closely follows the team to this day, proud of the franchise that he spent many years of his life being a part of.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I love Buffalo. Some of my best friends are all still from Buffalo, my wife is from Buffalo, so Buffalo, you can’t get rid of me now, I’m a mafia for life.”
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.