Dick Butkus, a Pro Football Hall of Famer widely regarded as one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history, has died at the age of 80, the Chicago Bears announced.
Butkus passed away “peacefully in his sleep overnight” in his Malibu, California, home, according to the team.
“Dick was the ultimate Bear, and one of the greatest players in NFL history,” Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said in a statement. “He was Chicago’s son. He exuded what our great city is about and, not coincidently, what George Halas looked for in a player: toughness, smarts, instincts, passion and leadership. He refused to accept anything less than the best from himself, or from his teammates. When we dedicated the George Halas statue at our team headquarters, we asked Dick to speak at the ceremony, because we knew he spoke for Papa Bear.
“Dick had a gruff manner, and maybe that kept some people from approaching him, but he actually had a soft touch. His legacy of philanthropy included a mission of ridding performance enhancing drugs from sports and promoting heart health. 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.
“We extend our condolences to Helen, Dick’s high school sweetheart and wife of 60 years, and their family.”
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