Richard Marvin "Dick" Butkus (born 9 December 1942) is a former American football player, widely regarded as the greatest linebacker of his generation and one of the best football players of all time.
Butkus starred as a football player for the University of Illinois and the Chicago Bears. He became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
Butkus was born into a large Lithuanian
family of eight children on the south side of Chicago
. He played high school football for Coach Bernie O'Brien at CVS. There he met his three lifelong friends Patrick O'Neill, Tyler Volk, and Eric Parker who played linebacker with him in high school. The group was infamously known around the conference as the ferocious quartet.
University of Illinois
At Illinois, Butkus played center
from 1962 through 1964. Butkus was twice a unanimous All-American
, in 1963 and 1964. Butkus won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football
in 1963 as the Big Ten Most Valuable Player
, and was named the American Football Coaches Association
Player of the Year in 1964. Butkus also finished sixth in Heisman Trophy
balloting in 1963, and third in 1964, a remarkable achievement given his position.
Butkus is a member of The Pigskin Club Of Washington, D.C. National Intercollegiate All-American Football Players Honor Roll.
After his collegiate career, Butkus continued to receive recognition for his play. Butkus was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983, and is one of only two players to have a uniform number (#50) retired by the University of Illinois (the other being Harold "Red" Grange). Butkus was also named to the Walter Camp All-Century team in 1990, and was named as the sixth-best college football player ever by College Football News in 2000. As perhaps the ultimate tribute to his excellence, in 1985 the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando, Florida created an award in his name. The Dick Butkus Award is given annually to the most outstanding linebacker in college football. In 2008 this annual prestigious award was moved to Chicago where recipients from high school, college and the NFL will be selected by a national team of 51 coaches and sportswriters. In 2007, Butkus was ranked #19 on ESPN's Top 25 Players In College Football History list.
Butkus was drafted in the first round by both the Denver Broncos
of the American Football League
and his hometown team, the Chicago Bears
of the NFL
. He was selected to the Pro Bowl
for 8 seasons, and was all-league six times. In his rookie season, Butkus led the team in tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries and regularly led the team in these categories throughout his career. Butkus recovered 25 fumbles in his career, an NFL
record at the time of his retirement. He was one of the most feared players of his era and even appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated
in 1970 with the caption "The Most Feared Man in the Game." He had one of his most productive seasons in 1970 with 132 tackles, 84 assists, 3 INT and 2 fumble recoveries. He was forced to retire after multiple knee injuries in 1973.
Butkus filed a lawsuit against the Bears in 1975, claiming the Bears knowingly kept Butkus on the field when he should have had surgery on his knees. The Bears denied Butkus and their other players the right to seek second opinions with doctors other than the Bears team doctor, and the team would liberally use painkillers so Butkus, a major gate attraction, would be active.
Because of the lawsuit, Butkus' relationship with owner George Halas was icy despite the fact the two shared much in common (Chicago born and raised, University of Illinois alumni, first-generation Americans). Butkus did return to the Bears as a color analyst on radio broadcasts in 1985, teaming with first-year play-by-play man Wayne Larrivee and former St. Louis Cardinals quarterback Jim Hart. His longtime teammate Gale Sayers was also honored during a ceremony during halftime of a rain-soaked Monday night game between the Bears and Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.
He was also selected the 70th greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, the 9th best player in league history by The Sporting News, and the fifth best by the Associated Press. The National Football League named him to their all time team in 2000. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.Although Butkus was bothered by his injuries he was deemed the most feared linebacker in the NFL.
In the summer of 2000, Dick Butkus was announced to be the coach of the Chicago Enforcers
of the XFL
. Although a few months later it was announced that he would not coach the Enforcers. Butkus was given a "promotion", and became the XFL
Director of Competition. Many Chicago
fans were disappointed that Butkus was removed from his coaching position. Butkus was replaced with Ron Meyer
for the XFL
's only season in 2001.
- After his career as a player, Butkus has become a well known celebrity endorser, broadcaster, and actor. He has appeared in films such as Gus (1976), Cracking Up, Necessary Roughness, and Any Given Sunday, and as a regular character on TV shows such as Blue Thunder, My Two Dads, and Hang Time. He made two appearances on the TV shows "Coach" and MacGyver. In an oft-rerun episode of Murder She Wrote, Butkus appeared in a locker-room scene wearing nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist.
- Promoted the "Qwik-Cook Grill", a grill utilizing newspaper as its main fuel, on TV infomercials in the '90s.
- Butkus' son, Matt Butkus, was part of University of Southern California's 1990 Rose Bowl winning team as a defensive lineman and played on the Chicago Bears as a reserve linebacker during the 2003 NFL season.
- Butkus was also the special referee for the battle royal at WrestleMania 2.
- Butkus was hired as the replacement for Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder on CBS pregame show The NFL Today in 1988, serving as an analyst through 1989.
- His nephew, Luke Butkus, was hired on February 19, 2007, as the Bears' offensive line coach.
- Butkus had a cameo appearance in the 2nd season episode "The No-Cut Contract" of the TV show The Rockford Files.
- In 2008 Butkus initiated a nationwide campaign to help eliminate anabolic steroid use by high school athletes called I Play Clean www.iplayclean.org He is asking all athletes to take the I Play Clean Pledge to not use performance enhancing drugs and to eat right, train hard and play with an attitude.
Bound for Glory
In 2005, Butkus "coached" a high school football team for an ESPN
reality show, "Bound for Glory
". The series documented the season of the Montour Spartans of Pittsburgh
, Pa., and was told through the eyes and ears of the players, coaches, teachers, families and friends. The high school football team, which once celebrated heroic triumphs, had fallen on hard times, making the playoffs just once in the previous seven years. After starting the season with only 1 win and 6 losses, Butkus left the team and the show, citing the fact that he was only contracted for 8 weeks.