Richard Marvin "Dick" Butkus (born December 9, 1942) is a former American footballlinebacker who played for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League. He was drafted in 1965 and he is also widely regarded as one of the best and most durable linebackers of all time. Butkus started 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. He played nine seasons in the NFL for the Chicago Bears. Billed at 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m), 245 lb (111 kg), he was one of the most feared and intimidating linebackers of his time, being named the most feared tackler of all time by NFL.com in 2009.
Richard Marvin "Dick" Butkus was the youngest of nine children of Lithuanian immigrants Don, an electrician, and Emma, who worked in a laundry. He grew up in the Roseland neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. He played high school football for coach Bernie O'Brien at Chicago Vocational High School.
After his university years, Butkus continued to receive recognition. He 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 football program (the other the #77 of Harold "Red" Grange). Butkus was named to the Walter Camp All-Century team in 1990, and was named the sixth-best ever college football player by College Football News in 2000. In 2007, Butkus ranked #19 on ESPN's Top 25 Players In College Football History list.
In 1985, the Downtown Athletic Club of Orlando, Florida created an award in his name. The Butkus Award is given annually to the most outstanding linebacker at the high school, college, and professional levels as chosen by a nationwide panel of 51 coaches and sportswriters. In 2008, control of the award was relinquished to the Butkus Foundation, based in Chicago, Illinois.
Butkus was selected to eight Pro Bowls and was all-league six times. In his rookie season, Butkus led the Bears in tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries, and regularly led the team in these categories throughout his career. Butkus recovered 27 fumbles in his career, an NFLrecord 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 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. He was forced to retire after multiple knee injuries in 1973.
One of Butkus' greatest strengths was his ability to rip the ball from a ball carrier's hands. Although back then the statistic was not kept, it has been noted that Butkus would certainly be one of the all-time leaders in the forced fumbles category.
At one point, Butkus gained a reputation as one of the meanest players on an otherwise bad Bears team in the late 1960s, and during his tenure, the Bears won 48 games, lost 74 and tied 4.
Butkus filed a lawsuit against the Bears in 1974, claiming the Bears knowingly kept him 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. The team would also distribute painkillers so that Butkus, a major gate attraction, would be active.
Butkus was also selected the 70th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century by ESPN, the ninth-best player in NFL 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. He was named as head coach of the XFL's Chicago Enforcers franchise but was replaced with coach Ron Meyer for the league's only season in 2001. Instead, Butkus served as the league's Director of Competition.
Dick also spent time in Central Florida where he worked for Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries in Lake Helen. There he assisted in a series of educational lectures and films about injury rehabilitation and proper exercise, and served as a company representative.
Butkus promoted the "Qwik-Cook Grill," a grill utilizing newspaper as its main fuel, on TV infomercials in the '90s. Butkus starred in a 2005 FedEx commercial entitled "I'm Sorry Dick Butkus," developed by BBDO New York. In this commercial, Butkus is brought in to help a small business go global.
Butkus' son, Matthew, played college football at USC as a defensive lineman, and joins his father in philanthropic activities such as the "I Play Clean" campaign. Butkus' nephew, Luke Butkus, was hired on February 19, 2007, as the Bears' offensive line coach, and in 2010 joined the Seattle Seahawks staff in a similar position. He joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as assistant offensive line coach on January 28, 2013.
In 2006, Butkus was brought into McKees Rocks, Pa., to be the head coach for the Montour Spartans at Montour High School to bring back their glory days. The year 2006 the Montour Spartans made it to ESPN's reality show Bound For Glory during when Dick Butkus was the head coach for the Spartans, along with former Kansas City Chiefs coach Ray Crockett and the current head coach for the Spartans, Lou Cerro.
In 2014, Butkus made a guest appearance on the Disney Channel series I Didn't Do It (TV series). The plot of the episode he appeared in ("Ball or Nothing") revolved around a football signed by Butkus.
Through The Butkus Foundation, Butkus has supported many charitable causes following his NFL career. The Butkus Foundation, Inc. was formed to manage the receipt and disbursement of funds for his charitable causes. These causes include:
The I Play Clean Campaign addresses the issue of steroids among high school athletes. The campaign educates and encourages high school to train and eat well, without resorting to illegal steroids and performance-enhancing products.
The Butkus Award, instituted in 1985, is one of the elite individual honors in college football. The Butkus Foundation takes stewardship of the award recognizing athletic achievement and service to the community while honoring the nation’s best high school, college, and professional linebackers. An independent Butkus Award Selection Committee, headed by Pro Football Weekly’s Hub Arkush, is composed of 51 people, including professional, college, and high school scouts, and sports journalists. This committee conducts the selection process.
The Dick Butkus Center for Cardiovascular Wellness is a nonprofit organization in Orange County, California with a cardiac screening program that uses specialized testing to help identify those at risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death.
Butkus and Helen Essenberg were high school sweethearts. She attended Fenger Academy High School, only a few miles away from Chicago Vocational. They wed in 1963 while they were students at the University of Illinois. Together they have three children: Ricky, Matt, and Nikki.