Richard Marvin "Dick" Butkus (born December 9, 1942) is a former American football player, widely regarded as the greatest linebacker of his generation and one of the best football players 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.
University of Illinois
At Illinois, Butkus played center and linebacker from 1962 through 1964. Butkus was twice a unanimous All-American, in 1963 and 1964. Butkus won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football in 1963 as the Big Ten Most Valuable Player, and was named the American Football Coaches Association Player of the Year in 1964. Butkus also finished sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting in 1963, and third in 1964, a remarkable achievement given his position.
Butkus is a member of The Pigskin Club Of Washington, D.C. National Intercollegiate All-American Football Players Honor Roll.
After his collegiate career, Butkus continued to receive recognition for his play. Butkus 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 (the other being Harold "Red" Grange). Butkus was also named to the Walter Camp All-Century team in 1990, and was named as the sixth-best college football player ever by College Football News in 2000. As perhaps the ultimate tribute to his excellence, 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 in college football. In 2008 this annual prestigious award was moved to Chicago where recipients from high school, college and the NFL will be selected by a national team of 51 coaches and sportswriters. In 2007, Butkus was ranked #19 on ESPN's Top 25 Players In College Football History list.
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 was selected to the Pro Bowl for 8 seasons, and was all-league six times. In his rookie season, Butkus led the team in tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries and regularly led the team in these categories throughout his career. Butkus recovered 25 fumbles in his career, an 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 INT and 2 fumble recoveries. He was forced to retire after multiple knee injuries in 1973.
Butkus filed a lawsuit against the Bears in 1975, claiming the Bears knowingly kept Butkus 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, and the team would liberally use painkillers so Butkus, a major gate attraction, would be active.
Because of the lawsuit, Butkus' relationship with owner George Halas was icy despite the fact the two shared much in common (Chicago born and raised, University of Illinois alumni, first-generation Americans). 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. His longtime teammate Gale Sayers was also honored during a ceremony during halftime of a rain-soaked Monday night game between the Bears and Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.
He was also selected the 70th greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, the 9th best player in league 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.Although Butkus was bothered by his injuries he was deemed the most feared linebacker in the NFL.