Dick Butkus Chicago Bears
"There’s only one thing I’ve ever wanted to do. Play pro football. Everyone seems to be made for something, and I’ve always felt that playing football was the thing I was supposed to do. I love the game.”
Dick Butkus possessed a desire to excel that few have ever equaled. He played as the Chicago Bears' middle linebacker for nine years with only one goal in mind – to be the best, and from the very start, he was just that. In his rookie season, Butkus, a first-round draft choice, had only one challenger for National Football League Rookie of the Year honors, teammate Gale Sayers. That same year Butkus was named first-team All-NFL, an honor he would record five more times. Butkus also played in the Pro Bowl following his rookie season and in each of the next seven years.
He even figured in the career statistical columns with 22 interceptions and 27 opponents' fumble recoveries. Dick had drive, meanness, a consuming desire to pursue, tackle, and manhandle – anything he could do to thwart the enemy on every play. Still he was a clean player, totally devoted to his career, a man who by his own admission played every game as though it were his last one.
Butkus had the speed and agility to make tackles from sideline to sideline and to cover the best tight ends and running backs on pass plays. He had instinct, strength, leadership and, maybe most important of all, anger. “When I went out on the field to warm up, I would manufacture things to make me mad,” he once said. “If someone on the other team was laughing, I'd pretend he was laughing at me or the Bears. It always worked for me." It was inevitable that injuries would eventually come to someone who threw himself so completely into a contact sport such as football. For Butkus, it was a serious right knee injury in 1970 that didn't respond completely to surgery. Three years later, he retired. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility.