Bears Icon Dick Butkus Passes Away, Leaving a Legacy
Dick Butkus, a Chicago native and a great middle linebacker for the Bears Hall of Fame, is remembered by many as the most vicious defensive player in NFL history. It was 1980.
"The Butkus Family confirms that football and entertainment legend Dick Butkus passed away peacefully in his sleep overnight at home in Malibu, California," the statement from the family reads. Helen, Dick's wife, is hosting the Butkus family. They are grateful for your prayers and assistance.
George H. McCaskey, chairman of the Bears, stated in a statement, "Dick was the ultimate Bear, and one of the greatest players in NFL history." "His father was Chicago. He embodied the values of our wonderful city and, coincidentally, the qualities George Halas sought in a player: toughness, intelligence, intuition, enthusiasm, and leadership. He was not going to settle for anything less than perfection from his teammates or himself. We requested Dick to speak at the dedication of the George Halas monument at our team headquarters because we knew he spoke for Papa Bear.
"Dick actually possessed a tender touch, though maybe his rough exterior deterred some people from approaching him. His charitable legacy included efforts to promote heart health and ban performance-enhancing substances from sports. We are appreciative that he was able to attend our home opening this year to be honoured one more time by his devoted followers. His contributions to the game he loved will always endure.
"We send our condolences to Dick's wife of sixty years, Helen, who was his sweetheart in high school," together with their family.
Butkus was the classic village lad turned good storyteller. He was born and raised on Chicago's South Side, excelling at Chicago Vocational High School and the University of Illinois until the Bears picked him with the third choice in the 1965 NFL Draught, one pick ahead of future Hall of Famer and enduring colleague Gale Sayers.
Butkus, who spent all eight of his NFL seasons with the Bears from 1965 to 1973, is still regarded as one of the team's most beloved athletes. With brilliance, anger, and hatred, he was a formidable and unrelenting force.
"I would rather go one-on-one with a grizzly bear if given the chance," former Green Bay Packers running back MacArthur Lane once declared. "After every time Butkus hits me, I pray that I can get up."
Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones famously remarked, "Dick was an animal." "I referred to him as a stone crazy. He was a trained beast, and each time he struck you, he intended to take you to the grave rather than the hospital."
In addition to being chosen as an All Pro in seven of his nine NFL seasons, Butkus was picked to the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons. In 1979, the year he became eligible, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame and won two NFL Defensive Player of the Year Awards.
Butkus was voted to the NFL's 75th and 100th Anniversary Teams, had his No. 51 jersey retired by the Bears, and was chosen to the NFL All-Decade Teams for both the 1960s and 1970s.
Butkus was also an exceptional ball player. With 26 fumble recoveries, he set an NFL record that has since been surpassed. His 22 career interceptions rank him tied for 11th in Bears history with fellow Hall of Fame middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Butkus was rated as the second-greatest player in team history by Hall of Fame authors Dan Pompei and Don Pierson in the 2019 Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook, with legendary running back Walter Payton coming in first.
At the Bears100 Celebration in Rosemont in 2019, Butkus expressed his gratitude to ChicagoBears.com for becoming a celebrity in his hometown.
Butkus remarked, "I don't think many players have actually done that, so it's kind of a unique position." "I'm really fortunate. It was nice for my family and I, as my parents were able to attend a big majority of the games held in Chicago.
"It's great to play for someone who has been engaged in football since I can remember, especially someone like George Halas who began it all. I simply believed that everything had a purpose."
When asked about his reputation for fury and passion, Butkus responded, "I felt like that was the way everyone should have played." However, it appears that they didn't as they were asserting that my style of play was unique. In order to get the guy you're playing against start thinking about getting hit and eventually lose interest in gripping the ball, you try to scare him and hit him hard enough. I suppose no one else was doing it as much if it stood out."
It's interesting to note that Butkus's most memorable game was not on defence. It happened late in a 1971 Bears game against Washington, when they were trying to break a 15–15 draw with an extra point. After Bobby Douglass fumbled a botched snap recovery, he rolled to his left and lofted the ball into the end zone, where Butkus grabbed the pass and the Bears won thrillingly, 16–15.
Butkus rose to fame as an actor after leaving the Bears, appearing in several films and TV series, frequently costarring with another former football great Bubba Smith. Butkus appeared on TV series including "My Two Dads," "Vega$," "MacGyver," and "Hang Time" in recurring roles. Brian's Song" (in which he plays himself), "The Longest Yard," "Johnny Dangerously," "Necessary Roughness," and "Any Given Sunday" are among the films in which he has appeared.
In addition to endorsing a number of brands, Butkus most famously starred in a series of Miller Lite advertisements with other former professional players.
During his adult life, Butkus gave liberally to many charity projects. He founded and oversaw The Butkus Foundation, which established the Butkus Award to recognise the top linebacker in high school, college, and professional football in the country. Along with founding the charity Dick Butkus Centre for Cardiovascular Wellness in Orange County, California, the Hall of Famer also helped identify people at risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death through a cardiac screening programme that makes use of specialised testing.
The Butkus Foundation also organises the "I Play Clean Campaign," which informs and motivates high school players to follow a healthy diet and training regimen without using illicit steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.