Butkus played gridiron football as a fullback and linebacker at Chicago Vocational High School. At the University of Illinois, he played middle linebacker (1962-64), earning All-America honors in 1963 and 1964. He also starred in the 1963 Rose Bowl game, a 17-7 Illinois victory over the University of Washington.

In his first year with the Bears (1965), Butkus intercepted five passes, and in 1970 NFL coaches voted him the player whom they would most like to have on their teams. In a career shortened by injuries, Butkus accumulated 1,020 tackles, 22 interceptions, and 25 fumble recoveries. After retiring in 1973, he was active in television and films. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.


Instituted in 1985, The Butkus Award® is one of the elite individual honors, originally given each year to one player in college football: the most impactful linebacker in the game. In 2008, The Butkus Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, took stewardship of the award to fully realize the original purpose of honoring athletic achievement and service to the community. Since that time, the award has honored the nation’s best high school, college, and professional linebackers. An independent Butkus Award Selection Committee conducts the selection process each year. The committee is comprised of 51 experts, including professional, college, and high school scouts, and prominent sports journalists.
dick butkus playing football