Dick Butkus (born December 9, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois) is a former American football player and actor. Butkus starred as a football player for the University of Illinois and the Chicago Bears. He was best known for his punishing tackles. Terry Bradshaw once claimed Butkus to be "a killer on the field, but an angel sent by God from heaven above off the field".
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.
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.
Butkus was drafted in the first round by his hometown team, the Chicago Bears. In Chicago, Butkus became known for wreaking havoc on the opponent's backfield. He was selected to the Pro Bowl for 9 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 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 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 literally 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.
In the summer of 2000, Dick Butkus was announced to be the coach of the Chicago Enforcers of the XFL. Although a few months later it was announced that he would not coach the Enforcers. Butkus was given a "promotion", and became the XFL Director of Competition. Many Chicago fans were disappointed that Butkus was removed from his coaching position. Butkus was replaced with Ron Meyer for the XFL's only season in 2001.
In 2005, Butkus "coached" a high school football team for an ESPN reality show, "Bound for Glory". The series documented the season of the Montour Spartans of Pittsburgh, Pa., and was told through the eyes and ears of the players, coaches, teachers, families and friends. The high school football team, which once celebrated heroic triumphs, had fallen on hard times - making the playoffs just once in the previous seven years. After starting the season with only 1 win and 6 losses, Butkus left the team and the show, citing the fact that he was only contracted for 8 weeks. The team was actually happy that he left before their season was over because he was incredibly hated.