Former NFL player Isiah “Butch” Robertson died in a crash southeast of Dallas near the town of Mabank on Thursday night.
Robertson, who lived in Garland, played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1971 to 1978 and for the Buffalo Bills from 1979 to 1982.
Robertson, 69, was driving a limousine in the rain at an unsafe speed around a curve before skidding and coming to a stop partially in the roadway, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. A truck hit the limo and pushed it into oncoming traffic where it was struck against by another car.
The two other drivers did not have critical injuries, according to a press release from DPS.
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Directly before the crash, Robertson was speaking at an athletic banquet at Grand Prairie High School. A post from the school’s Facebook page includes a video of what would become Robertson’s final speech.
In the speech, Robertson told gathered students, parents and faculty that life is about moving forward and helping others.
“If you have a setback, you don’t have to take a step back because God’s gonna come back,” he said at the banquet. “I want to tell you, God has a plan for every one of you.”
He also discussed his struggles with addiction and treatment.
“After the game they came back, they came into my house, they drug me to my feet and they took me to a treatment center,” he told the crowd. “But that’s where God touched me at. That’s where I got set free at. And that’s why I give back.”
Robertson often talked about his recovery from addiction and was the founder of the House of Isaiah, a faith-based drug and alcohol treatment center for men in Mabank.
Grand Prairie Campus life coordinator Jalah Gray said Robertson’s death has been traumatic for students and faculty.
“It was an epic speech, and for him to make that speech and die a few hours later . . . it’s shocking,” Gray said.
Robertson provided scholarships and inspiration to students, including those at Grand Prairie, encouraging them to go to college. Gray said he was “part of the team” and gave speeches throughout the year.
“He has a heart for kids, too,” Gray said. “Grand Prairie High School is a socioeconomically disadvantaged school. Eighty percent struggle financially. Our kids don’t have the upper advantage in a lot of things and for someone like Isiah Robertson to come in and say ‘we want to help these kids’ is a big deal.”
Gray said they brought in counselors and social workers for the students today, many of whom looked up to Robertson.
“I remember thinking last night during his speech. . . he paused for a second and he said ‘I got a lot to say, but as soon as I say it, I have to leave, I’m gone because I have a 3 hour drive,” Gray said. “And I was thinking, it’s nasty weather, I hope someone is driving him. It’s just . . . that’s the thought that was going through my head.”
Gray said Robertson had a limo driver, but the driver was dropped off at home and Robertson continued the drive alone.
“Everyone probably took something away from that speech last night,” Gray said. “No matter where you’re coming from or going through right now, that doesn’t have to define you. You can get better.”
Robertson was a four-time All-Pro selection and a six-time Pro Bowler. He was inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2017, according to the NFL.