Reaction To The Most Feared Man In NFL History, Dick Butkus, Passing Away At 80

Sadly, the legendary Dick Butkus has passed away at age 80.

The iconic middle linebacker passed away peacefully in his sleep. Considered the most feared player in NFL history, Butkus became a Chicago Bears legend during his illustrious nine-year career.

He was known league-wide for his bone-crushing tackles, intimidating presence, and take-no-prisoners attitude on the football field. 

In a statement released through the Bears, Butkus’ family confirmed his passing, saying, “Dick was the ultimate Bear, and one of the greatest players in NFL history.” The family shared that he “died peacefully in his sleep overnight” at his home in Malibu, California.

Reflecting on Butkus’ legacy, Chicago Bears team chairman George McCaskey remarked: “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.”

McCaskey added: “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.”

Last night, the Bears played the Washington Commanders in front of a national audience on Thursday Night Football.

Clearly inspired by Butkus’ passing, the Bears played their best game of the season and knocked off the host-Commanders 40-20 upset victory.

“We played for him tonight,” Bears quarterback Justin Fields said after the win.

Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones once described Butkus as a “maniac” and a “well-conditioned animal.”

Butkus was known for wanting to send a message with every tackle, once stating: “I want to just let ’em know that they’ve been hit, and when they get up, they don’t have to look to see who it was that hit ’em.”

Butkus, who made the Pro Bowl eight times in his career, was forced to retire at the age of 31 due to a chronic knee injury in 1974.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell paid tribute to Butkus, calling him “a fierce and passionate competitor who helped define the linebacker position as one of the NFL’s all-time greats.”

Butkus’ remarkable career included 1,020 tackles and 22 interceptions, earning him first-team All-Pro honors five times, the George Halas Award in 1974, and induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1979.

He was also a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the NFL’s all-decade teams in the 1960’s and 1970’s … Butkus was also a member of the league’s 75th and 100th-anniversary all-time teams.

Born on December 9, 1942, as the youngest of eight children, Butkus grew up on Chicago’s South Side and played high school football at Chicago Vocational High School.

He went on to excel at the University of Illinois, where he played both center and linebacker, earning All-America honors and finishing third in Heisman Trophy voting during his senior season.

Selected by the Bears as the third overall pick in the 1965 NFL draft, Butkus quickly became a dominant force on the field, hitting runners with authority and leaving an indelible mark on the game.

Sports Illustrated once hailed him as “The Most Feared Man in the Game.”

Despite playing for only two winning teams with the Bears and never making the playoffs, Butkus remained a beloved figure in the franchise’s history.

After retiring, he temporarily clashed with the team in a lawsuit but eventually reconciled and became a passionate supporter of the Bears.

Through the Butkus Foundation, he dedicated himself to various philanthropic causes, including encouraging early screenings for heart disease, promoting healthy lifestyles for high school athletes, and supporting the Butkus Award, which honors college football’s best linebackers.

Beyond his football career, Butkus ventured into acting, appearing in films like “Brian’s Song” and “The Longest Yard,” as well as television shows such as “My Two Dads” and “Hang Time.”

(Hang Time was incredible by the way.)

He also became a well-known figure in commercials, most notably in the Miller Lite ads with Bubba Smith.

Butkus had a brief career as a sports broadcaster and served as a color analyst for Bears games, continuing his connection to the sport he loved.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame lowered its flags to half-staff in honor of Butkus, whose legacy as a football icon and philanthropist will continue to inspire generations to come.

He is survived by his wife, Helen, and children Ricky, Matt, and Nikki, with his nephew Luke Butkus having made a name for himself as a coach in college and the NFL, including time with the Bears.


Where do you rank Butkus among the best defensive players of all-time?