Dick Butkus – Chicago Bears #51

Chicago Bears #51

Richard Marvin Butkus was born on December 9th 1942 in Chicago, Illinois.

Butkus played his college football at the University of Illinois for the Fighting Illini. and in his sophomore season, helped them to victory in the 1964 Rose Bowl, defeating the Washington Huskies. He was named the MVP (Most Valuable Player) that same year.

In his junior season, he was again named the MVP and college football’s Lineman of the Year. He forewent his Senior season to enter the 1965 NFL Draft and ended his college career with 374 tackles.

Butkus was drafted as the third overall pick by the Chicago Bears along with fellow future Hall of Famer, Gale Sayers. Both Butkus (3rd) and Sayers (2nd) were voted in the top three rookies of that season. In 1969 and 1970 Butkus was named Defensive Player of the Year, despite playing in a pretty poor Bears team at that time.

Butkus is often labelled as one of the toughest, meanest players to ever play the game and one quote from Deacon Jones – Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end – seemed to sum up other players opinion of Dick’s style of play “Dick was an animal. 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.”

All through his career, Butkus would suffer with a right knee injury that would ultimately force him to leave the league early. He first tore his knee ligaments while at high school but was able to continue playing because of the strength of his muscles compensating. In 1971 in the off-season, he had preventative surgery on the knee. In 1973, his season was cut short by further injury to the same knee in Game week 5 against the Falcons. He was ultimately forced to retire from the NFL, age 31 in 1974.

He finished his career having played 119 games exclusively for the Bears, making 1,020 tackles, 22 interceptions and 27 fumble recoveries.

Despite this constant niggling injury throughout his career, Dick Butkus was regularly one of the best defenders not only with the Bears but throughout the league. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, twice NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1969, 1970). 1960’s and 1970’s All-Decade Team, NFL 7th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.

He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. Both the Illinois Fighting Illini (#50) and the Chicago Bears (#51) retired Butkus’ shirt number in his honour. In 2009, he was named the most feared tackler of all time by the NFL Network.