Last month, the family of Dick Butkus, the renowned Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker and iconic figure of the Chicago Bears, confirmed his passing at the age of 80 in his Malibu home. The official cause of his demise was disclosed this week, with reports from CBS Sports, citing the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, indicating that Butkus succumbed to a “cerebrovascular accident,” commonly known as a stroke.
His death certificate outlined additional contributing factors, including an irregular heartbeat and high cholesterol. It also revealed that the five-time first-team All-Pro had undergone coronary bypass surgery in 2001. Butkus celebrated as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history, dedicated his entire nine-season career (1965-1973) to the Chicago Bears, securing eight Pro Bowl selections and earning the title of Defensive Player of the Year in consecutive seasons (1969-1970).
In a statement following Butkus’s passing, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell lauded him as a “fierce and passionate competitor” who played a pivotal role in defining the linebacker position. Goodell emphasized Butkus’s enduring impact on the league, stating, “Dick’s intuition, toughness, and athleticism made him the model linebacker whose name will forever be linked to the position and the Chicago Bears.”
Throughout his illustrious career, Butkus remained loyal to his Chicago roots, showcasing versatility by playing various positions at Chicago Vocational High before progressing to the University of Illinois. Despite being drafted by both the Bears and the Denver Broncos in 1965, Butkus chose to stay close to home, embodying the spirit of Chicago.
Bears chairman George McCaskey paid tribute to Butkus’s legacy, describing him as “Chicago’s son” who embodied the values prized by the city and team founder George Halas. McCaskey highlighted Butkus’s unwavering commitment to excellence, stating, “He refused to accept anything less than the best from himself or from his teammates.”
Butkus’s enduring impact on the game earned him a place on the Hall of Fame All-1960s and All-1970s teams, and he was officially enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.