Bears legend Dick Butkus dies

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Dick Butkus, the legendary Bears Hall of Fame middle linebacker and Chicago native who many still consider the most ferocious defensive player in NFL history, has died. He is 80 years old.

The Butkus family released the following statement: “The Butkus family confirms that football and entertainment legend Dick Butkus passed away peacefully in his sleep after spending the night at his home in Malibu, California. The Butkus family is confirming Gathering with Dick’s wife Helen. They thank you for your prayers and support. ”

“Dick was the ultimate Bears representative and one of the greatest players in NFL history,” Bears president George H. McCaskey said in a statement. “He is a son of Chicago. He exudes the charisma of our great city and, not coincidentally, what George Halas looks for in a player: toughness, intelligence, instinct, passion and leadership. He refuses Accepting anything less than your best, when we dedicated the George Halas statue at team headquarters, we asked Dick to speak at the ceremony because we knew he spoke on behalf of Papa Bear.

“Dick had a gruff attitude, which perhaps kept some people away from approaching him, but he was actually very gentle. His philanthropic efforts included the elimination of performance-enhancing drugs in sports and his mission to promote heart health. His contributions to the game were indispensable. The love will always be there and we are grateful that he was able to attend our home opener this year and be celebrated one last time by his many fans.

“Our condolences go out to Dick’s high school sweetheart, Helen, his wife of 60 years, and their family.”

Butkus is a prime example of a local boy’s success. He grew up on Chicago’s South Side and attended Chicago Vocational High School and the University of Illinois before being drafted by the Bears with the third overall pick in the 1965 NFL draft, ahead of longtime teammate and Hall of Famer Gale Sayers. Gale Sayers) one.

Butkus played eight NFL seasons with the Bears from 1965-73 and remains one of the most popular players in franchise history. He is a formidable, ruthless force of talent, aggression and hostility.

“If I had a choice, I’d rather go one-on-one with the Grizzlies,” Green Bay Packers running back McArthur Lane once said. “I pray that I can stand up every time Butkus hits me.”

“Dick is an animal,” Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones once said. “I call him crazy, stone crazy, he’s a well-conditioned animal, and every time he hits you, he wants to send you to the cemetery instead of the hospital.”

Butkus was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight seasons in the NFL and was an All-Pro player in seven of his nine seasons. He was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility.

Butkus was named to the NFL’s All-Pro teams in the 1960s and 1970s, his No. 51 jersey was retired by the Bears, and he was selected to the NFL’s 75th and 100th anniversary teams.

Butkus also has exceptional ball skills. He set an NFL record, which has since been broken, with 26 fumble receptions, and his 22 career interceptions tie him with fellow Hall of Fame middle linebacker Brian Urlacher in Bears history. Tied for 11th place.

In the Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook published in 2019, Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompeo and Don Pearson ranked Butkus as the second-greatest player in franchise history, behind superstar running back Walter · Payton.

In 2019, Butkus told ChicagoBears.com at the Bears100 Celebration in Rosemont that he felt lucky to star in his hometown.

“It’s a unique position because I don’t think a lot of players have really done it,” Butkus said. “I feel very lucky. My parents get to go to 95 percent of the games in Chicago, so it’s good for my family and I love it.

“Who better to play for a guy who’s been involved in football for as long as I can remember than a guy like George Halas who started it all? I just feel like everything happens for a reason.”

Asked about his reputation for ferocity and intensity, Butkus said: “I think that’s the way everybody should play. But I guess they don’t because they claim I have a special way of playing. You try to intimidate your opponent and hit him hard enough so that sooner or later he starts to worry about getting hit and forgets to get the ball. If it stands out, I don’t think anyone else does it.”

Interestingly, one of the most memorable moments of Butkus’ career didn’t happen on defense. This happened in 1971 against Washington when the Bears were trying to score an extra point to tie the game at 15-15. Bobby Douglass scrambled to catch a bad kickoff, rolled to his left and passed the ball into the end zone to Butkus, who caught the pass and put the Bears ahead. 16-15 A thrilling win.

After retiring from the Bears, Butkus became a popular actor, appearing in dozens of movies and TV shows, many alongside former football star Bubba Smith. Butkus has had recurring roles on television shows such as “My Two Dads,” “Vega$,” “MacGyver” and “Hang Time.” His film credits include “Brian’s Song” (appearing as himself), “The Longest Yard,” “Johnny Danger,” “Necessary Roughness” and “Any Sunday.”

Butkus has endorsed a variety of products, most notably appearing in a series of ads for Miller Lite alongside other former professional athletes.

Throughout his adult life, Butkus generously supported many charitable causes. He founded and ran the Butkus Foundation, which established the Butkus Award to honor the nation’s top linebackers in professional, college and high school football. The Hall of Famer also founded the Dick Butkus Center for Cardiovascular Health, a nonprofit in Orange County, Calif., that operates a heart screening program that uses specialized tests to help identify those People at risk for heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

In addition, the Butkus Foundation also conducts the “I Move Clean” campaign, which educates and encourages high school athletes to train and eat well without the use of illegal steroids and other performance-enhancing products.

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