May 27, 2012

Rookie of the Year: Jerry Butler, 1979


Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills



Age: 22 (Oct. 12)
College: Clemson
Height: 6’0”    Weight: 178

Prelude:
One of Buffalo’s two first-round draft picks in 1979 (the other was LB Tom Cousineau, who went to the CFL instead), Butler was considered the top-rated wide receiver in the draft. He moved into the starting lineup across from veteran WR Frank Lewis and added an explosive element that soon had him facing double coverages.

1979 Season Summary
Appeared in 13 of 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 48       
Most receptions, game – 10 (for 255 yds.) vs. NY Jets 9/23
Yards – 834
Most yards, game - 255 (on 10 catches) vs. NY Jets 9/23
Average gain – 17.4 [18]
TDs – 4
200-yard receiving games – 1
100-yard receiving games – 2

Rushing
Attempts – 2
Yards – 13
Average gain – 6.5
TDs – 0

Scoring
TDs – 4
Points – 24

Awards & Honors:
AFC Rookie of the Year: UPI, Sporting News

Bills went 7-9 to finish fourth in the AFC East while ranking 9th in the NFL in passing offense (3216 yards).

Aftermath:
Butler followed up his outstanding rookie season with a Pro Bowl performance in 1980 as he caught 57 passes for 832 yards and six TDs. He was also a second-team All-AFC selection by UPI. While still productive, Butler was nagged by injuries in ’81, was a contract holdout prior to the strike-shortened 1982 season, and then suffered a knee injury in ’83 that required major surgery and cost him all of 1984. He came back with a 41-catch, 770-yard season in 1985 (18.8 avg.) However, he caught 15 passes in 11 games in ‘86 before another leg injury effectively finished his career. Overall, Butler caught 278 passes for 4301 yards (15.5 avg.) and 29 touchdowns.

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Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

[Updated 2/9/14]