RIP: Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus died yesterday in his sleep.  Mr. Butkus was 80.

Dick Butkus was born in Chicago.  He played his entire football career in Illinois.

Dick Butkus attended Chicago Vocational High School.  On the football team he played fullback, linebacker, punter, and placekicker.  He averaged 5 yards per carry as a fullback, but preferred to play defense.  He became the first junior to earn the Chicago Sun-Time’s high school player of the year award.

Mr. Butkus attended the University of Illinois, where he played center and linebacker.  He had a stellar college career.  In his freshman year, he made the 1962 All-Big Ten Conference football team.  The following year, he was named the team’s most valuable player. Dick Butkus also earned the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the Big Ten’s most valuable player.  He was also a unanimous choice as center for the 1963 College Football All-America Team,  In 1964, Dick Butkus was named Co-Captain of the team.  UPI named him college football’s Lineman of the Year.  Mr. Butkus was named the Player of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association and The Sporting News. He was also named his college’s most valuable player for the second year in a row. Dick Butkus also earned a spot on the 1964 All-America team.  Although he didn’t win, he was in the running for the Heisman Trophy (as the best college football player) which is extremely rare for a defensive player.

Dick Butkus was the third overall pick in the 1965 NFL draft.  He played his entire 9 year career with the Chicago Bears.  Mr. Butkus was named the AP’s NFL Defensive Player of the Week four times in his career.  He came in 3rd place for the NFL’s Rookie of the Year Award (again, rare for a defensive player).  His rookie year he made the AP’s first-team All-Pro as well as a spot in the Pro Bowl (the first of eight straight).  Dick Butkus was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1969 and 1970.

Dick Butkus’ pro career was cut short due to knee injuries.  He is credited for redefining the middle linebacker position. Some of his honors include:

  • His college jersey number, 50, was retired by the Illinois Fighting Illini.
  • ESPN named Dick Butkus the 70th greatest athlete of the 20th century
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame voters named Dick Butkus to the NFL’s 1960s All-Decade Team
  • Pro Football Hall of Fame voters named Dick Butkus to the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team
  • In his first year of eligibility he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979
  • He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
  • The Bears retired Dick Butkus’s No. 51 jersey in 1994
  • NFL Officials & media personnel named Dick Butkus to the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1994
  • Named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s All-Century Team in 1999
  • The Sporting News named Dick Butkus the 9th Best Player Ever in the NFL in 1999
  • A sculpture of Dick Butkus premiered at Soldier Field among other Chicago Bear greats in 2004
  • Mr. Butkus was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 2008
  • Dick Butkus was named the 10th best player ever by the NFL Network in 2010
  • The NY Daily News named Dick Butkus the 8th best NFL player ever in 2014
  • Mr. Butkus was inducted to the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016
  • Mr. Butkus was named a laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois in 2018
  • Mr. Butkus was awarded the Order of Lincoln, the state’s highest honor, by the Governor of Illinois in 2018
  • NFL Officials & media personnel named Dick Butkus to the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team in 2019

Dick Butkus created the Butkus Foundation to support charitable causes.

After retiring from professional football, Dick Butkus became a broadcaster, actor and was in demand by advertisers to endorse many products.

Some of Dick Butkus’ television appearances include: Brian’s Song; Emergency!; McMillan & Wife; Police Story (2 episodes); The Six Million Dollar Man; The Rockford Files; Rich Man, Poor Man; Wonder Woman; Taxi; Fantasy Island (2 episodes); Vegas; Magnum PI; Matt Houston; The Greatest American Hero; Simon & Simon; Blue Thunder (11 episodes); The Love Boat; Murder She Wrote; Half Nelson (7 episodes); Night Court (2 episodes); Matlock; Growing Pains; My Two Dads (27 episodes); MacGuyver (3 episodes); Coach (2 episodes); Hang Time (52 episodes) and The Bernie Mac Show.

Some of Dick Butkus’ feature film appearances include: Mother, Jugs & Speed; Gus; Johnny Dangerously; Gremlins 2; Necessary Roughness; The Last Boy Scout and Any Given Sunday.

Dick Butkus was my favorite football player when I was a kid.  I was a Chicago Bears fan and Mr. Butkus is a big reason for that.  I loved his style of play.  When he retired, I enjoyed seeing him in the broadcast booth or popping up in a movie, television show or commercial.  You can imagine the smile I had when I watched ROCKY for the first time and saw that his dog was named Butkus.  I also appreciate that Mr. Butkus backed several charitable causes.  What a life he lived.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dick Butkus’ family, friends and fans.