Dick Butkus, legendary Chicago Bears linebacker and Hall of Famer, dies at 80

Fred Mitchell | Chicago Tribune

Dick Butkus, the participant who maybe finest epitomized the powerful and decided identification of the Chicago Bears, has died, the Tribune confirmed Thursday. He was 80.

The Butkus household stated Thursday he died “peacefully in his sleep overnight at home” in Malibu, California.

A product of Chicago’s working-class South Side and the University of Illinois, Butkus turned a fierce Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker earlier than embarking on a modest however enduring tv and appearing profession in Hollywood.

“After football, it was difficult for me to find what I liked second best,” Butkus as soon as informed the Tribune. “Football was at all times my past love. That actually didn’t imply I couldn’t discover one thing else. And the proof of the pudding is the place I’ve ended up at the moment.

“I guess I could have been one of those guys who didn’t prepare to quit. But things happened and through hard work I found out that, hey, there are other things besides football.”

In 2019, the Tribune ranked Butkus No. 2 in a listing of the 100 biggest Bears.

“Dick was the ultimate Bear, and one of the greatest players in NFL history. He was Chicago’s son,” George McCaskey stated in a press release Thursday. “He exuded what our nice metropolis is about and, not coincidently, what George Halas regarded for in a participant: toughness, smarts, instincts, ardour and management. He refused to simply accept something lower than one of the best from himself, or from his teammates. When we devoted the George Halas statue at our crew headquarters, we requested Dick to talk on the ceremony, as a result of we knew he spoke for Papa Bear.

“Dick had a gruff manner, and maybe that kept some people from approaching him, but he actually had a soft touch. His legacy of philanthropy included a mission of ridding performance enhancing drugs from sports and promoting heart health. His contributions to the game he loved will live forever and we are grateful he was able to be at our home opener this year to be celebrated one last time by his many fans.”

Butkus, whose taking part in profession was lower quick due to a number of knee accidents, left the Bears with bitter emotions.

In 1974, Butkus filed a lawsuit, asserting that the Bears knowingly inspired him to maintain taking part in when he ought to have had surgical procedure on his knees. The litigation triggered friction between Butkus and Bears proprietor George Halas.

The events ultimately reached an out-of-court monetary settlement and the connection between Butkus and the Bears franchise improved through the years.

Born Richard Marvin Butkus on Dec. 9, 1942, he was the youngest of 9 youngsters of Lithuanian immigrants. His father, Don, was an electrician. And his mom, Emma, labored in a laundry. Butkus grew up within the Roseland neighborhood and performed highschool soccer for coach Bernie O’Brien at Chicago Vocational.

CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 24: Former Chicago Bear participant and Hall of Fame member Dick Butkus watches from the sidelines because the Bears tackle the Pittsburgh Steelers at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

At Illinois, Butkus performed middle and linebacker (1962-1964) and was a unanimous All-American, in 1963 and 1964. In 1963 Butkus gained the Chicago Tribune Silver Football because the Big Ten’s Most Valuable Player. In 1964, he was named the American Football Coaches Association Player of the Year. Butkus completed sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting in 1963 and third in 1964. Butkus wound up his faculty profession with 374 tackles.

He was a first-round draft decide (No. 3 general) of the Bears in 1965. Another future Hall of Famer, Gale Sayers, additionally was chosen in that first spherical by the Bears, making it one of the vital productive drafts by one crew in NFL historical past.

The Denver Broncos of the then-fledgling American Football League, additionally drafted Butkus within the first spherical in 1965.

Butkus’ standing as one of many biggest of all time is outstanding contemplating he by no means made the playoffs and loved simply two successful seasons in his nine-year profession.

He was simply that good — and ferocious.

Butkus’ spotlight reels nonetheless are stunning for his or her violence, tapping into part of himself that even essentially the most hardened soccer gamers discover troublesome to succeed in. He merely had no regard for his opponents.

Rams defensive finish Deacon Jones, a Hall of Famer and one of the vital feared defensive gamers ever, as soon as stated: “I called him a maniac. A stone maniac. He was a well-conditioned animal, and every time he hit you, he tried to put you in the cemetery, not the hospital.”

But Butkus was greater than only a hard-hitting linebacker. He additionally was deftly expert in cross masking, racking in 22 interceptions.

Butkus began all 119 video games he performed. He was named first-team All-Pro 5 instances and second-team as soon as and he was voted to the Pro Bowl after his first eight seasons. He’s the Bears’ all-time chief with 27 fumble recoveries.

Butkus was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1978. In 1994, the jersey numbers of Butkus (51) and Sayers (40) had been retired by the Bears throughout a stormy halftime ceremony at Soldier Field.

The Butkus Foundation was shaped to concentrate on his charitable endeavors. His most passionate initiative was the “I Play Clean” marketing campaign, which concentrates on educating younger athletes concerning the risks of utilizing steroids.

The Butkus Award was established in 1985 to acknowledge the highest linebackers in highschool, faculty and the NFL every year. The award additionally makes use of service to the group as a part of its standards.

Fred Mitchell is a former Chicago Tribune sports activities author. Will Larkin, additionally previously of the Tribune, contributed.