The great Illini and Chicago Bear Dick Butkus is celebrating his 79th birthday today.
Truly one of the greatest to ever play the game. A force so physical he could easily have played the game today amongst the bigger, stronger, faster players of today and still excelled.
Chicago-born, Butkus played his entire football career in his home state, which began at Chicago Vocational High School. As a college football player at the University of Illinois, he was a linebacker and center for the Fighting Illini. A two-time consensus All-American, he led the Illini to a Rose Bowl victory in 1963 and was deemed the most valuable player in the Big Ten Conference, and in 1964 he was named college football's Lineman of the Year by United Press International (UPI). He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983.
Butkus was drafted by the Bears as the third overall pick in the 1965 NFL Draft. He soon established himself as a ball hawk with his penchant for forcing turnovers. In an NFL career shortened by injuries, he accumulated 1,020 tackles, he intercepted 22 passes, recovered 27 fumbles (a record when he retired), and was responsible for causing many more fumbles with his jarring tackles. His tackling ability earned him both admiration and trepidation from opposing players. According to Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones, Butkus "was a well-conditioned animal, and every time he hit you, he tried to put you in the cemetery, not the hospital." In 2009, the NFL Network named Butkus the most feared tackler of all time.
Butkus is credited with having defined the middle linebacker position, and is still viewed as the "gold standard by which other middle linebackers are measured." He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, and his No. 51 jersey is retired by the Bears
"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."
— Deacon Jones, Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end
Happy Birthday Mr. Butkus