Dick Butkus, Legendary Hall of Fame Linebacker, Passes Away at 80

Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus: A Hard-Hitting Legacy and His Journey into Acting

In the world of American football, few names evoke as much reverence and respect as Dick Butkus. The Chicago Bears’ iconic middle linebacker of the 1960s and ’70s left an indelible mark on the sport. Not only was he renowned for his bone-crushing hits against the run, but he was also impressively fleet-footed when it came to foiling pass plays. Butkus’s legacy goes beyond the football field; he transitioned into a successful career in acting. Let’s delve into the life and accomplishments of this remarkable athlete and entertainer.

Early Life and Football Beginnings

Dick Butkus was born on December 9, 1942, into a large Lithuanian-American family in Chicago. His father worked as an electrician for the Pullman-Standard railroad car company. Butkus’s journey to football stardom began early. He excelled at Chicago Vocational High School, where he played multiple positions, including fullback, linebacker, punter, and place-kicker. His versatility and talent earned him national recognition.

College Football Glory

Butkus continued to shine in college, playing for the University of Illinois. During his three seasons with the Illini, he led the team to an impressive 8-1-1 record and a memorable victory in the 1964 New Year’s Day Rose Bowl game. Sports Illustrated once featured him on their cover, declaring that with linebackers like Dick Butkus, fullbacks would soon be “three feet tall and sing soprano.”

NFL Career and Hall of Fame Induction

In 1965, the Chicago Bears selected Butkus in the first round, third overall, during the NFL draft. His remarkable rookie season saw him intercept five passes and recover seven fumbles. Throughout his career with the Bears from 1965 to 1973, Butkus’s excellence on the field earned him numerous accolades. He was named a first-team All-Pro five times and selected for the Pro Bowl eight times. In 1979, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility.

The Unrecorded Legacy

One intriguing aspect of Butkus’s career is the unrecorded number of times he smothered opposing quarterbacks. Sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982, so his contributions in this area remain unquantified. However, it is widely believed that he intercepted 22 passes and recovered 27 fumbles, further emphasizing his impact on the game.

The Butkus Intensity

Butkus was known for his unparalleled intensity on the field. He would famously manufacture reasons to get angry, using any perceived taunt from the opposing team as motivation. This fierce determination and unwavering commitment to his craft set him apart as a player.

Transition to Acting

After retiring from football, Butkus pursued a career in acting. He appeared in various commercials, including the famous Miller Lite ads, where he engaged in humorous debates with other athletes. He also ventured into movies and television, featuring in films like “Necessary Roughness” (1991) and “Any Given Sunday” (1999). His television roles included appearances in shows like “My Two Dads” and “Hang Time.” Notably, he portrayed himself in the 1971 television docudrama “Brian’s Song,” a heartfelt tribute to his late teammate Brian Piccolo.

Family and Legacy

Dick Butkus was a family man, married to Helen, with whom he had three children—Matt, Nikki, and Richard Jr. His contributions to football and entertainment left an enduring legacy, inspiring generations of athletes and fans alike.


Dick Butkus’s life was a testament to unwavering dedication, fierce competitiveness, and remarkable versatility. From his hard-hitting days on the football field to his successful transition into acting, Butkus’s journey remains an inspiration. His legacy continues to live on, reminding us that with passion and determination, one can excel in multiple fields.


1. What is Dick Butkus best known for?

Dick Butkus is best known for his outstanding career as a middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears in the 1960s and ’70s.

2. How many times was Dick Butkus selected for the Pro Bowl?

Dick Butkus was selected for the Pro Bowl eight times during his NFL career.

3. Did Dick Butkus have a successful acting career?

Yes, after retiring from football, Dick Butkus pursued a successful career in acting, appearing in commercials, movies, and television shows.

4. What is the significance of the 1964 Rose Bowl game in Dick Butkus’s career?

The 1964 Rose Bowl game was significant as Dick Butkus led the University of Illinois to victory, gaining national recognition as an All-American linebacker.

5. How did Dick Butkus use his intensity on the football field?

Dick Butkus was known for manufacturing motivation by getting angry at perceived taunts from the opposing team, channeling his intensity into his gameplay.

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