As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.
Today we go linebacker-heavy on the countdown, and first on our list is the number eight Bears draft pick of all time, as Dick Butkus finally gets his due.
Taken with the third overall pick in the 1965 NFL Draft, Butkus ended up becoming one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history. His ferocious style of play and his penchant for huge hits became the stuff of legends, and along with running back Gale Sayers he helped ensure that the Bears would become one of the most legendary franchises in the NFL. Selected to the Pro Bowl eight times and named a First Team All-Pro five times, Butkus was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, and still serves as an ambassador for smash mouth football to this day.
Before Charles Tillman perfected the art of the “Peanut Punch,” Butkus made stripping ball carriers a habit during his tenure with the Bears. He recovered 27 fumbles in his nine year career, which was an NFL record at the time of his retirement.
He was perhaps at his best during the 1970 season, when he started all 14 games and racked up 132 tackles and 84 assisted tackles for the Bears. During that season, Sports Illustrated ran a cover photo of Butkus with the headline “The Most Feared Man in the Game,” and he certainly lived up to that moniker.
Former Green Bay Packers running back MacArthur Lane perhaps put it best when he said this about Butkus:
“If I had a choice, I’d sooner go one-on-one with a grizzly bear. I prayed that I could get up every time Butkus hit me.”
Since his career ended, Butkus has gotten involved in plenty of charitable endeavors that show off his soft side. One of the most notable is the Dick Butkus Center for Cardiovascular Wellness” in California, which uses testing to “help identify those at risk of heart disease and sudden cardiac death,” according to its website.
Butkus is a player that is legendary throughout the NFL, and rightfully so. He played the game with a mean streak a mile wide, and he defined football for generations of Bears fans. The only thing that knocked him down the list a little bit was the fact he was the third overall pick in the draft, but even that doesn’t diminish just how great a player Butkus was.