Dick Butkus Death Cause: On Tuesday night in Malibu, California, Dick Butkus, one of the finest middle linebackers in NFL history and a Chicago Bears legend, passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was 80 years of age.
The news of his death was disclosed by the Bears via a statement from his family on Wednesday morning. The statement did not specify the precise cause of death, but it did indicate that Butkus had been experiencing a variety of health problems in recent years.
“Dick was a loving husband, father, grandfather and friend to many,” the statement read. “He was also a fierce competitor, a loyal teammate and a passionate advocate for the game of football. He lived his life with dignity and grace, and we will miss him dearly.”
Dick Butkus was a legend who embodied what it means to be a Chicago Bear. Our hearts go out to his family and friends. pic.twitter.com/8UEVuuZLwi
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) October 5, 2023
A Chicago Native and a College Star
Butkus was born on December 9, 1942, in Chicago and raised in the Roseland neighborhood. He excelled at football, basketball, and baseball during his time at Chicago Vocational High School. He received a scholarship to play football for the Fighting Illini at the University of Illinois, where he became a sensation.
Butkus played both offense and defense at Illinois, but he made his impact as a linebacker. He was a two-time consensus All-American, a three-time All-Big Ten selection, and the 1964 Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award recipient for the most valuable player in the conference. In 1964, he also finished third in the voting for the Heisman Trophy.
Butkus contributed to Illinois’ 1963 Big Ten championship and 1964 Rose Bowl victory. 1983 marked his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.
A Legacy of Excellence and Respect
Butkus is widely regarded as one of the finest football players of all time. His name is synonymous with excellence in the position of linebacker. Both Illinois and Chicago have decommissioned his number 51 jersey. Outside of Soldier Field, where he played home games for the Bears, his statue stands.
Butkus is also remembered as a reputable leader and a dedicated comrade. With his devotion and commitment to the game, he inspired generations of players who came after him. He was commended by his colleagues, coaches, and opponents for his athleticism and sportsmanship.
Numerous tributes have poured in from all corners of the sporting community to commemorate Butkus’ life and legacy. Here are some examples:
George H. McCaskey, Bears chairman: “Dick was the ultimate Bear and one of the finest players in NFL history. He was a true son of Chicago. He embodied what our great city stands for, and not by coincidence, what George Halas sought in a player: toughness, intelligence, instincts, passion and leadership.”
Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner: “Dick Butkus was a football legend, a ferocious competitor, and a Hall of Famer who left an indelible mark on the NFL and football fans everywhere. On and off the field, he was a leader, a champion for the sport, and a role model for generations of fans and athletes. His family, friends, and the entire Bears organization have our profound condolences.”
Mike Ditka, former Bears player and coach: “Dick Butkus was the best football player I ever saw. He played the game the way it was meant to be played. He was a leader, a mentor and a friend to me. He was like a brother to me. I will miss him terribly.”
Former Bears linebacker and Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher: “Dick Butkus was my childhood icon. I aspired to play linebacker for the Bears because of him. He was the ideal combination of player and individual. He was strong, intelligent, passionate, and modest. He was always encouraging and supportive. To me, he was a legend and a hero.”
Ray Lewis, former Ravens linebacker and Hall of Famer: “Dick Butkus was one of the greatest linebackers of all time. He set the standard for how to play the position with his intensity, physicality and instincts. He was a warrior on the field and a gentleman off it. He had a huge influence on my career and my life. He was a legend and a mentor to me.”
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A Successful Career After Football
After leaving football, Butkus pursued acting and broadcasting careers. He appeared in a number of films and television programs, including “Brian’s Song,” “The Longest Yard,” “Gremlins,” “My Two Dads,” and “Hang Time.” Additionally, he served as a color commentator for NBC and CBS.
Additionally, Butpersonal remained involved in football as a coach and an advocate. In 1984, he was the linebackers coach for the Chicago Blitz of the USFL. In addition, he established the Butkus Foundation, which promotes health and wellness among young athletes and awards an annual trophy to the finest college football linebacker.
Butkus is survived by his 1963-married wife Helen, his three children Rick, Nikki, and Matt, and nine grandchildren.
A Timeline of His Life and Career
|1942||Born in Chicago on December 9|
|1960||Graduated from Chicago Vocational High School|
|1961-1964||Played football at Illinois|
|1964||Won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football award; finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting|
|1965||Drafted by the Bears with the third overall pick; named NFL Rookie of the Year|
|1965-1973||Played for the Bears; earned eight Pro Bowl selections and five first-team All-Pro honors|
|1970||Suffered a knee injury that hampered his career|
|1973||Retired from football|
|1979||Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame|
|1981||Settled a lawsuit with the Bears and their team doctor over his knee injury|
|1983||Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame|
|1984||Coached linebackers for the Chicago Blitz of the USFL|
|1985||Founded the Butkus Foundation|
|1999||Voted as one of the 100 Greatest Players in NFL History|
|2023||Died at his home in Malibu on October 5|
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