The Chicago Bears confirmed on Thursday that long-time linebacker and hard-hitting member of the Pro Football Hall of Fam, Dick Butkus, who played for his hometown team before becoming well-known for his exuberant personality in acting roles on television and in movies, had passed away at the age of 80 years old.
According to a tribute from his family published by the Bears on social media, Butkus passed away “peacefully in his sleep overnight at home in Malibu,” California.
“The Butkus family is gathering with Dick’s wife, Helen. They appreciate your prayers and support,” the family’s statement reads.
Butkus was “the ultimate Bear, and one of the greatest players in NFL history,” Chicago Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said.
“He was Chicago’s son,” McCaskey said. “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.”
News of Butkus’ passing spread over an hour before the Bears’ Thursday night game against the Washington Commanders started. The teams and spectators observed a moment of silence before the game at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.
Butkus was an imposing middle linebacker for the Bears during his nine NFL seasons in the 1960s and 1970s, and was a fierce tackler who was selected out of the University of Illinois. He was also a member of eight Pro Bowls.
According to a piece on the Chicago Bears fans website, Butkus believed that his enthusiasm on the field was simply the proper way to play the game.
After playing for a part of the 1973 season and retiring at the age of 31 years old, a few years after sustaining a devastating knee injury, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979 – the first year he was eligible. In 1983, Butkus was further inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
According to I Get Talk, the Butkus Award, recognizes the best linebacker at the professional, collegiate, and high school levels, and was established in 1985.
In 1994, the Bears retired Butkus’ No. 51 uniform. For both of the decades he played, Butkus was picked by a Hall of Fame committee for the NFL All-Decade Teams. He was also elected to the NFL’s 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Teams.
Last month, Mike Williams, a former wide receiver in the NFL died. He was 36 years old at the time of his passing.
Before his death, Williams sustained an injury in an accident while working at a construction site.
Williams was a native of Buffalo who attended Syracuse University. He was the best in his team in receiving yards as a true freshman in 2006 with 461. The following year, he was named to the Big East all-star team, but due to an academic suspension, he missed the 2008 campaign.
He caught 49 passes for 746 yards and seven touchdowns in seven games in 2009, however, he left the team due to a potential punishment after he broke team rules following a car accident.
Despite the setbacks, Mike Williams was chosen by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft, and he made a good impression right away.
With 964 receiving yards and 65 receptions in his debut season, he finished one reception short of tying for the team lead. He led the squad in scoring with 11 goals, and thanks to his outstanding season, he was named the second-best offensive rookie of the year, trailing only Sam Bradford.
Before the 2013 season, the Bucs signed him to a contract for close to $40 million, but he only participated in six games before being moved to the Buffalo Bills, whom he later played for for one season.
He was slated to miss the first six games of the 2015 season due to a suspension, instead, he spent the entire year as a free agent.
He was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs‘ practice squad in 2016.
Williams and Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison are tied for second place in Syracuse history with 20 touchdowns each.
He had a total of 223 receptions for 3,089 yards and 26 touchdowns during his professional football career.