Column: Dick Butkus personified Chicago’s toughness with the Bears. ‘There was no way that guy wasn’t going to be great.’

In Chicago, the place everybody likes to consider themselves as powerful, Dick Butkus was the true deal.

The Chicago Bears linebacking nice, who died Thursday at 80, was thought of the hardest man in a sport by which hitting is just not optionally available.

He carried that persona into his post-football life, cashing in on that demeanor in motion pictures and TV and even bringing it to the social media web site previously known as Twitter. When Butkus’s account lastly was verified in January 2022, he started trolling Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers the day after a Packers playoff loss, writing “Funny, the orange juice tastes a little bit sweeter this morning.”

That was why Butkus was nonetheless beloved in Chicago a long time after his Bears days as a human sledgehammer with a crew reduce ended. He by no means felt the should be anybody however himself, and that was ok for us. He later joked about his status for creating mayhem.

“I’m not so mean,” Butkus informed Tribune reporter Cooper Rollow. “I wouldn’t ever go out to hurt anybody deliberately. Unless it was, you know, important — like a league game or something.”

But typically the status damage him, when his exhausting hitting was misconstrued as soiled. He wrote about one such second in his 1972 e book “Dick Butkus, Stop-Action.” After the demise on the sphere of Lions receiver Chuck Hughes throughout a Bears recreation in Detroit in 1971, Butkus wrote he picked up {a magazine} that had a quote from Lions center linebacker Mike Lucci: “Something ought to be done about Butkus. He intentionally tries to hurt people, and that’s wrong.”

Hughes had died of a coronary heart assault, not from any hit through the recreation from Butkus. But the labeling of him as a grimy participant by the Lions was one thing he couldn’t let go, and he didn’t maintain again in his criticism.

“No one but those jerks has ever called me a dirty player,” he wrote of the Lions. “I play as hard as I can. I try to hit as hard as I can. To me that’s what the game is all about.”

Butkus performed the sport the appropriate method, whilst his bone-crunching hits sounded somewhat louder than anybody else’s. He thought of himself one of the best at his place when he performed and wrote in his e book “it annoys me when someone says that anyone is as good or better than me. Call it ego if you want, but it just isn’t true.”

Butkus, a Chicago Vocational product who starred on the University of Illinois, got here up in the identical draft as fellow Bears nice Gale Sayers, making for one of many best duos in Chicago sports activities historical past. Butkus was chosen to the All-NFL crew seven instances throughout his nine-year profession, and who is aware of how a lot greater the legend could be had it not been reduce quick by accidents.

A lawsuit Butkus filed towards the Bears and Dr. Ted Fox due to the harm he acquired finally was settled, however the feud between the best defensive participant in franchise historical past and proprietor George Halas lasted for years.

Butkus was again within the household’s good graces by the point Mike Ditka was employed as coach, and he was made a part of the radio broadcast crew. Butkus’s most memorable name was through the 1985 NFC title recreation towards the Los Angeles Rams, when he feverishly yelled encouragement to Wilber Marshall because the Bears linebacker scooped up a fourth quarter fumble and rambled 53 yards for a landing.

“Go … go … go!”

Butkus’s former Bears teammate and present WGN-AM 720 analyst Ed O’Bradovich broke down Thursday on the pregame present when speaking concerning the passing of a good friend he has identified since they had been youngsters on the South Side. In a 1994 Tribune interview, O’Bradovich stated they used to place a automobile in the midst of a dead-end road and “push it back and forth, up and down the street.”

When they reunited as Bears teammates, they practiced as exhausting as they performed throughout video games.

“I remember Gale would juke and fake and run 30 or 40 yards on dummy runs in practice, going through the line at full speed,” O’Bradovich stated. “You know that old adage: ‘Play the way you practice?’ Well, Dick used to hit those tackling dummies like he wanted to break them in two and spit ‘em out.”

Bill George, additionally a Hall of Fame linebacker for the Bears, informed Rollow of the primary time he noticed Butkus in July 1965 on the first apply at camp in Rensselaer, Ind.

“I started packing my gear,” George stated. “I knew my Bear days were numbered. There was no way that guy wasn’t going to be great.”

George known as it. Butkus became one of the best linebacker of his period and arguably one of the best of all time. The Bears lastly bought round to retiring his No. 51, together with Sayers’ No. 40, on a wet Halloween night time in 1994 at Soldier Field.

Butkus’ NFL legacy was sealed years in the past. But in Chicago, he was greater than only a soccer participant. In his hometown, Butkus will at all times be the embodiment of the Chicago Way.

Tough, humorous and energetic.