Everything You Need To Know About Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus is one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history, a living legend of the Chicago Bears, a member of various symbolic teams, and both the college and professional football Halls of Fame.

Dick Butkus

Who is Dick Butkus?

Richard Marvin Butkus was born on December 9, 1942, in Chicago. He was the eighth and youngest child in a Lithuanian-American family. During his school years, he played fullback, center, and kicker, but he enjoyed being a linebacker the most. He accounted for about 70% of all tackles made by his high school team. Despite suffering several injuries in his senior year, Butkus garnered immense interest from colleges as a promising defender. He chose the University of Illinois, where he played linebacker and center for three years. He was selected as the Big-10 Most Valuable Player, a rarity for a defensive player, and was a contender for the Heisman Trophy. The number 50, under which he played, has been retired by the university. Butkus has been a member of the College Football Hall of Fame since 1983.

How good was Dick Butkus?

After the 1965 NFL and AFL Drafts, Butkus was sought after by the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos. After much deliberation, he chose to sign with the team from his hometown, which was seen as a victory for the NFL in the league's rivalry. Butkus quickly became a vital player for the Bears, making five interceptions and recovering seven fumbles in his rookie season. He contended for the Rookie of the Year award and made the Pro Bowl. However, during this period, the Bears struggled as a team.

In 1969, the team had one of its worst seasons, finishing with a record of 1-13, but Butkus received the NEA Defensive Player of the Year award. This trophy was voted on by players in the league. He won it for the second time the following year. Then injuries started to plague him, compounded by the effects of previous injuries sustained in high school. Butkus underwent knee surgery and played three more seasons, maintaining his high level of play. However, in May 1974, after another surgery, he decided to retire. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, and his number 51 was retired by the Bears.

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Dick Butkus earned an infamous reputation for his actions on the field. Many described him as one of the most fierce and intimidating football players in history. Defensive end Deacon Jones referred to him as an "animal," and tight end Charlie Sanders recalled how Butkus could poke fingers through face masks and into players' eyes.

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After retiring, Butkus sued the Chicago Bears, accusing the club of not providing him with adequate medical assistance. The case was settled when the Bears agreed to pay him the remaining amount from his contract, but team owner George Halas did not speak to Butkus for about five years after that. Butkus went on to have a successful acting career, appearing in numerous commercials and working as a commentator on radio and television. An award named after him is given to the best linebacker in professional, college, and high school football.

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