Chicago Bears legend Dick Butkus died, his former team announced Thursday. The Hall of Fame linebacker was 80.
“Dick was the ultimate Bear, and one of the greatest players in NFL history,” team chairman George McCaskey said in a statement. “He was Chicago’s son. He exuded what our great city is about and, not coincidentally, what George Halas looks for in a player: toughness, smarts, instincts, passion and leadership.
“He refused to accept anything less than the best from himself, or from his teammates. … His contributions to the game he loved will live forever and we are grateful he was able to be at our home opener this year to be celebrated one last time by his many fans.”
In his nine-year career, Butkus made eight Pro Bowls. He recorded 1,020 tackles, 22 interceptions, and recovered 27 fumbles. His career was cut short by a knee injury in 1974 when he was 31. He was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
“Dick Butkus was a fierce and passionate competitor who helped define the linebacker position as one of the NFL’s all-time greats,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Thursday. “Dick’s intuition, toughness and athleticism made him the model linebacker whose name will forever be linked to the position and the Chicago Bears.
“We send our deepest condolences to the Butkus family, the Bears organization and the many fans and people he impacted throughout his life.”
Butkus was born Dec. 9, 1942 and grew up on the South Side of Chicago. He went on to star at Chicago Vocational High School and then in college at Illinois.
After his playing days, Butkus had a successful career as an actor, appearing in many films ranging from Johnny Dangerously to Gremlins 2: The New Batch. He also appeared TV shows and beer commercials, most notably for Miller Lite, where he starred alongside fellow Hall of Famer Deacon Jones. Butkus also spent time as an analyst on CBS’ NFL Today in the late 1980s.
Despite all his off-the-field accolades, he was remembered most for his fierce hits between the lines.
“I wouldn’t ever go out to hurt anybody deliberately,” Butkus once replied tongue-in-cheek when asked about his on-field reputation. “Unless it was, you know, important … like a league game or something.”
Butkus is survived by his wife, Helen, and their three children Ricky, Matt and Nikki.
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