My favorite coach of all time was ________________ because –
The greatest thing that football taught me was –
The way I used to prepare for a game was –
The worst part of pro sports for me was –
Pro football’s impact on my family was –
My advice to a young person that has visions of playing pro ball is –
Richard Marvin “Dick” Butkus is a former American football player for the Chicago Bears. He was drafted in 1965 and he is also widely regarded as one of the best and most durable linebackers 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. He played nine seasons in the NFL for the Chicago Bears. Billed at 6 ft 3 in, 245 lbs., he was one of the most feared and intimidating linebackers of his time.
The youngest of eight children, Lithuanian American Richard Marvin Butkus grew up in the Roseland area of Chicago’s south side. He played high school football for coach Bernie O’Brien at Chicago Vocational High School.
Despite growing up in Chicago, Butkus was not a Bears fan, preferring to attend Chicago Cardinals games at Comiskey Park and watch Thanksgiving games between the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers.
Butkus played center and linebacker from 1962 through 1964 at the University of Illinois. He was twice a unanimous All-American, in 1963 and 1964. He won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football in 1963 as the Big Ten’s Most Valuable Player, and was named the American Football Coaches Association Player of the Year in 1964. Butkus finished sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting in 1963 and third in 1964.
Butkus is a member of The Pigskin Club of Washington, D.C., which recognizes National Intercollegiate All-American football players.
After his university years, Butkus continued to receive recognition. He 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 football program (the other the #77 of Harold “Red” Grange). Butkus was named to the Walter Camp All-Century team in 1990, and was named the sixth-best ever college football player by College Football News in 2000. In 2007, Butkus ranked #19 on ESPN’s Top 25 Players In College Football History list.
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 at the high school, college, and professional levels as chosen by a nationwide panel of 51 coaches and sportswriters. In 2008, control of the award was relinquished to the Butkus Foundation, based in Chicago, Illinois.
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 signed with the Bears and did not play professionally with any other team. Along with fellow Hall of Famer Gale Sayers, Butkus was one of three first round picks for the Bears in 1965 NFL Draft, having used the pick they acquired in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Butkus and their own pick on Sayers. The team also drafted defensive end Steve DeLong, however he chose to play for the AFL’s San Diego Chargers for the first seven years of his professional career.
He was selected to eight Pro Bowls and was all-league six times. In his rookie season, Butkus led the Bears in tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries, and regularly led the team in these categories throughout his career. Butkus recovered 27 fumbles in his career, a 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 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. He was forced to retire after multiple knee injuries in 1973.
One of Butkus’s greatest known strengths was the ability to rip out the ball from ball carrier’s hands. Although back then the statistic was not kept, it has been noted that Butkus would certainly be one of the all-time leaders in the forced fumbles category.
At one point, Butkus gained a reputation as one of the meanest players on an otherwise bad Bears team in the late 1960’s. During the 1969 season in which the Bears finished 1-13, the team played against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wrigley Field in what would ultimately be the Bears’s only win that season. During the game, an incident with the Steelers then-rookie “Mean Joe” Greene led to Greene spitting into Butkus’s face and challenging him to a fight after Butkus committed what Greene considered a dirty hit on a teammate of Greene’s.
Butkus filed a lawsuit against the Bears in 1975, claiming the Bears knowingly kept him 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. The team would also distribute painkillers so that Butkus, a major gate attraction, would be active.
Because of the lawsuit, Butkus’ relationship with owner George Halas became icy. 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.
Butkus was also selected the 70th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century by ESPN, the ninth-best player in NFL 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. He was named as head coach of the XFL’s Chicago Enforcers franchise but was replaced with coach Ron Meyer for the league’s only season in 2001.