An Ode to Legend Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus was a force of nature on the football field. He was the leader of the defense, the captain of the team, and the nightmare of every quarterback. He played with passion, intensity, and intelligence. He was a master of reading the offense, anticipating the play, and delivering the hit. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, and a five-time All-Pro. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility.

But what made Dick Butkus even more remarkable was his longevity. He played for nine seasons in the NFL, from 1965 to 1973, and never missed a game due to injury. He was the iron man of the league, a rare breed of durability and toughness. He played through pain, through broken bones, through torn ligaments, through concussions. He never complained, never made excuses, never gave up. He always showed up on Sundays, ready to wreak havoc on the opposing team.

How did he do it? How did he manage to stay healthy and productive for so long in such a brutal sport? How did he defy age and injury like no other player in history?

The answer is simple: he loved the game. He loved everything about it: the challenge, the competition, the camaraderie, the glory. He loved to hit and be hit. He loved to make plays and celebrate with his teammates. He loved to win and hated to lose. He loved to inspire and be inspired. He loved to play football.

He once said in an interview: “Football is my life. It’s what I was born to do. It’s what makes me happy. It’s what gives me purpose. I don’t know what I would do without it.”

He also said: “I don’t think about getting hurt. I don’t think about getting old. I don’t think about anything else but the game. I just play with my heart and soul. I just play like it’s my last game every time.”

And that’s how he played until the very end. His last game was on December 10th, 1973, in a regular season finale against the New York Giants. He was 31 years old, but he still looked like a beast on the field. He had 12 tackles, one sack, and one interception that he returned for a touchdown. He was named the defensive player of the game and received a standing ovation from the fans as he walked off the field.

He announced his retirement shortly after that game, saying that he felt it was time to hang up his cleats and move on to the next chapter of his life. He said that he had no regrets, that he had given everything he had to the game, that he had achieved more than he ever dreamed of.

He also said: “I’m not sad. I’m not bitter. I’m not afraid. I’m grateful. I’m grateful for every moment I had on this field. I’m grateful for every teammate I had in this locker room. I’m grateful for every fan who supported me in this stadium. I’m grateful for every coach who taught me in this league. I’m grateful for every opponent who challenged me in this sport. I’m grateful for football.”

Dick Butkus was a legend of the game, a legend of the sport, a legend of life.

He couldn’t be taken out by anybody but father time, and even he was looking over his shoulder for the return hit. Dick will be missed.