Linebacker Hillary Butler was a successful journeyman NFL player for his seven-year career. After starring at the University of Washington, Butler became a member of the "Original 10" of the Jacksonville Jaguars, as he was the first linebacker ever signed by the expansion franchise. After his time at the Jaguars, he ventured to Frankfurt to play in NFL Europe for the Galaxy. Butler played in two World Bowls during his time playing for the Frankfurt Galaxy, and his strong performance earned him a spot at his hometown 49ers training camp, where he was released at the final cut stage.
Luckily, Butler was picked up by the Denver Broncos that season for their practice squad, and he spent that 1997 season on Denver's roster. The Broncos won Super Bowl XXXII that January. In the middle of the 1998 season, Seattle acquired Butler. After playing in Seattle for the 1998 season, injuries plagued Hillary, as the forced him out of Seattle and back to Denver before he medically retired in 2000 following his second shoulder injury.
Butler is still very involved with the NFL as an alumnus. He is a part of the Seahawks booster club, which is some of the reason why he is a known leader of the Seahawks fan group, the 12th man. After his career in football, Hillary transitioned his career back to his passion of hip-hop music, becoming a rapper under the name "Hill-B". Butler raps some of his songs about his beloved Seahawks, and has performed with Snoop Dogg, Digital Underground, and Nate Dogg, among others.
Zach Drapkin here at VAVEL USA got to ask Hill-B a few questions about his football career and what he does currently.
Drap: You were born in San Fran. Do you get any trash talk from California people on becoming a rival 12?
Hill-B: Yes, I have always had family battles ever since I was in 49ers training camp 1997. (I was released after final cuts and signed to Broncos Practice squad, and ended up winning a Super Bowl ring that year).
Drap: Why did you choose football over basketball and track after high school?
Hill-B: My high school coach Dick Zatchovich convinced me of a further career as a Football player, so I listened and football ended up being the best way.
Drap: Describe your experience winning an NCAA Championship and making three straight Rose Bowls with the University of Washington Huskies.
Hill-B: Great memories! Being a Husky during those years were special! I was blessed to be at the right place at the right time. We pretty much owned the city back then, because our city’s pro teams were not doing as good as we were. It was like being a celebrity during college.
Drap: How was the transition from NCAA ball to Europe to the NFL?
Hill-B: Definitely became more competitive as you had to compete against all college all-stars. Every one at that level was a standout at some point in his career. So it was fun to be able to compete at the highest level.
Drap: Was NFL Europe all that different from the NFL we know so well in the USA?
Hill-B: Not at all! It was basically introducing American football overseas. But the level of competition was all NFL players at some point. For me it was a blast, because I was able to play full time, as opposed to just special teams or practice squad. And to be able to get recognized as an All-World LB, is what kept NFL teams taking chances on me.
Drap: You played for, what, four different teams? What were the differences between being a member of each organization?
Hill-B: I think the main difference was each team had its own personality and chemistry. The teams that had the most success were the most fun to be a part of. Not just because of the winning, but the players relationships were visibly stronger and made a better experience.
Drap: You won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in the 1997-1998 season. Any experience like no other? How was watching the big game different as a player compared to watching as a fan?
Hill-B: Yeah, 1997 Super Bowl was such a memorable time. I still love watching footage and seeing those moments. Just doesn’t compare to watching as a fan. To be able to hoist that trophy yourself, and celebrate with your teammates is just an unimaginable experience that nothing will compare to.
Drap: How did playing in front of the 12th man change the way you went on to the field and performed, individually, and as a team?
Hill-B: It’s electrifying! The 12’s really do get you going! The energy is always strong and it makes you enthusiastic! That type of energy affects the players, staff, and everyone in the stadium.
Drap: Who were you rooting for in last year’s Super Bowl? Broncos or Seahawks?
Hill-B: I called that match up the “Butler Bowl”. I predicted it pre-season and was rooting Seahawks the whole time. I believed both teams were going to make it. But I knew Seattle had not experienced what we had experienced in Denver with the parade and trip to the White House. I knew the city deserved a parade. I wanted to re-live that moment we had in Denver back in Seattle. And glad I was there to witness all of the 12s that came out to crowd the downtown streets. I couldn’t have been more proud.
Drap: Will the Hawks win the Super Bowl again this season?
Hill-B: Yes! I believe so much, that I already made my reservations in Santa Clara for SB50. We will be better this year, and refocused on getting back to being World Champions.
Drap: What was your favorite part of being a professional football player?
Hill-B: Just being blessed to be able to do what I have always loved as a kid, and also get paid to do it. There are so many kids that play and have dreams of getting there. To be able to say I accomplished a child hood fantasy, and now have some of the greatest memories from some of the best times in my life. Nothing or no one can take those accomplishments away. My place is NFL history will always be a huge part of my life.
Drap: What’s it like, back to being a rapper now?
Hill-B: It’s awesome! Many athletes dream of being Musicians and vise versa. I was injured for 1999 season with Seahawks and started my music career after performing a freestyle in front of 25,000 fans at Canada’s Grey Cup. I was hooked and passion for being beat up playing football never returned. I’ve done shows with Snoop Dogg, Digital Underground, E-40, Soulja Boy, and many more cool artists. And now I am getting a name for my Seahawks themed songs. So to be a former Seahawks player and now to have great Seahawks songs possibly played a games makes it just the best that I could ask for.
Drap: Any thoughts on making a comeback run at the NFL?
Hill-B: Hah, I wish I my body was not so beat up from all of the injuries over the years. I really would have been a great one. But now, I’m just a 12 for the rest of my life.
Just like in Hill-B's newest song, "12th Man - Rest of My Life".
Thanks to Hillary for answering VAVEL USA's questions. Stay with us at VAVEL USA to read more interviews, informative news articles, and full blown sports analysis.
Check out Hill-B's website hillb.biz and follow him on Twitter.