On the 27th of September 2023 in Chicago Dick Butkus, a well-known middle linebacker who was a native of Chicago and a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, passed away. Many still see him as one of the hardest defenders in NFL history. At the age of 80, he died.
“The Butkus family confirms that Dick Butkus, a legend of football and entertainment, gently passed away in his sleep tonight in his Malibu, California home,” the statement from the Butkus family read. Helen, Dick’s wife, is also in sorrow, as is the Butkus family. They appreciate your prayers and words of support.
Dick was the best Bear and one of the greatest players in NFL history, according to Chicago Bears Chairman George H. McCaskey. He was a Chicago-born man. It’s no accident that George Halas recognized qualities in a football player like Dick Butkus such as toughness, intelligence, natural talent, enthusiasm, and leadership. He demonstrated what our great city is all about. When it came to himself or his colleagues, he never accepted anything less than the best. We requested Dick to speak because we knew he would be speaking on behalf of Papa Bear when we dedicated the statue of George Halas at our team headquarters.
Along with improving the game via fierce play, he also made it his mission to clean up sports by banning performance-enhancing drugs and promoting heart health. We are thankful that he was able to celebrate one final time this year with many of his supporters at our home opener since his impact on the game will always be cherished.
We offer our sympathies to Helen, Dick’s wife of 60 years and high school sweetheart, and their family.
Butkus was a hero in his community who showed how tenacity can lead to success. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, where he did well in school and on the football pitch. He played for Chicago Vocational High School and the University of Illinois before becoming famous with the Bears.
Butkus played for the Bears for his entire eight-year NFL career, from 1965 to 1973, and he eventually grew to become one of the team’s most beloved players. He was a powerful and unyielding force on the pitch thanks to his talent, aggressiveness, and persistence.
Paul Hornung, a running back for the Green Bay Packers, famously stated, “If I had one wish, it would be to meet a bear as soon as possible, face to face. Every time Butkus tackles me, I pray that I will manage to stand up.
Deacon Jones, a defensive end in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, once described Dick as “an animal.” “I referred to him as a stone maniac, a lunatic. Every time he attacked you, he sought to put you in the cemetery rather than the hospital since he was a trained animal.
In each of his first eight NFL seasons, Butkus got votes for the Pro Bowl, and over the course of his nine-year career, he was chosen for the All-Pro team seven times. He also received two NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors, and in 1979, his first year of eligibility, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Butkus’ No. 51 jersey was retired by the Bears, and he was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade teams for both the 1960s and 1970s. Additionally, he was chosen for the NFL’s 75th and 100th Anniversary teams.
Butkus had great ball skills; he set an NFL record for 26 fumble recoveries, a mark that still stands, and his 22 career interceptions place him among Brian Urlacher in the top 11 among all Hall of Fame middle linebackers.
Butkus possessed excellent ball skills; his 26 fumble recoveries remain an NFL record, and his 22 career interceptions rank him in the top 11 among all Hall of Fame middle linebackers, behind only Brian Urlacher.
Butkus expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to play in front of his local audience at ChicagoBears during the 2019 Bears100 Celebration in Rosemont. He stated, “I don’t think many players have done it, so it’s kind of unusual. I feel incredibly fortunate. In Chicago, my parents saw probably 95% of my games, so it was fantastic for my family and I liked it.
“Who initiated all this for someone to play who was linked with football like George Halas? Who would be a greater opponent for someone like that? Everyone ought to have played in that manner, in my opinion. But based on their assertion that I play the game in a unique way, I guess they didn’t. When playing against someone, try to frighten him by hitting him so hard that he becomes intimidated and loses focus on catching the ball. I don’t believe anyone else was doing it, if that’s what it takes.
Butkus had several remarkable moments over his career, including a non-tackle game-saving play. The Bears fought to score an extra point against Washington in 1971 when the score was 15-15 and an extra point try went awry. In an exciting 16-15 victory for the Bears, Bobby Douglass, who was having trouble picking up the loose ball, juked to his left and tossed the ball into the end zone. Butkus made a diving catch.
After leaving the Bears, Butkus went into a lucrative acting career, making several appearances in films and television series, frequently sharing screen time with Bubba Smith, another former football hero. Butkus appeared repeatedly in television programs like “My Two Dads,” “Vegas,” “MacGyver,” and “Hang Time.” His acting credits in films include “Brian’s Song” (in which he played himself).