Dick Butkus Named `Big Ten Icon' No. 6

Fighting Illini legend Dick Butkus is known as the greatest linebacker in history
Fighting Illini legend Dick Butkus is known as the greatest linebacker in history

Jan. 24, 2011

CHICAGO - Illinois' Dick Butkus has been named Big Ten Icon No. 6. Presented by Discover and hosted by Keith Jackson, Big Ten Icons continues at 9 PM ET on Sunday with a profile of the Illini linebacker whose name still embodies a tough, hard-nosed style of play.

The episode includes new one-on-one interviews with Butkus, former teammate and Illini broadcaster Jim Grabowski, former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, Champaign News-Gazette journalists Loren Tate and Bob Asmussen, and others.

In the episode, Butkus says football consumed him. "It was eat, sleep and drink football. I think it was a perfect indication of when you see something and you're so involved, good things come of it."

Butkus was voted to College Football's Hall of Fame in 1983. He and Red Grange are the only two Illini football players to have their numbers retired. Every year, the top linebacker in all of college football earns the Dick Butkus Award.

A native of Chicago's south side, Butkus was a two-time consensus All-American at Illinois, playing center, fullback and linebacker. As a junior in 1963, he set a new school record with 23 tackles in a game against Ohio State. Butkus went on to lead the Illini to the Big Ten title and earn the Chicago Tribune Silver Football as the conference's top player.

In the 1964 Rose Bowl, the Butkus-led defense held Washington to just seven points and 130 total yards. He sealed Illinois' 17-7 win with a late-game interception.

As a senior, Butkus repeated as an All-American and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting, a rare achievement for a defensive player.

In an essay for , former Chicago Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath wrote, "In the history of sport, it's doubtful there has ever been a more ideal melding of game, player and position than football, Dick Butkus and middle linebacker." To read the essay on Butkus and learn more about his accomplishments, visit his Big Ten Icons locker.

The No. 1 Big Ten Icon will be revealed in March 2011 in conjunction with the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament. Big Ten Icons is the network's most ambitious multi-platform initiative to date. The program is counting down the top 50 student-athletes in Big Ten history, based solely on their collegiate playing careers. All student-athletes from current Big Ten schools are eligible for the network's list.

Fans can visit to see a complete roster of Big Ten Icons, which also features essays, video and other key facts about each Icon's career.

Butkus is the second Illini recognized on the Big Ten Icons list so far, joining No. 44 George Halas.


No. 20    Charles Woodson, Michigan football (1995-97)
No. 19    Suzy Favor Hamilton, Wisconsin track and field (1987-91)
No. 18    Jack Nicklaus, Ohio State golf (1959-61)
No. 17    Steve Alford, Indiana basketball (1983-87)
No. 16    John Cappelletti, Penn State football (1971-74)
No. 15    Dave Winfield, Minnesota baseball/basketball (1970-73)
No. 14    Otto Graham, Northwestern football/basketball/baseball (1940-44)
No. 13    Ron Dayne, Wisconsin football (1996-2000)
No. 12    John Wooden, Purdue basketball (1930-32)
No. 11    Mark Spitz, Indiana swimming (1968-72)
No. 10    Isiah Thomas, Indiana basketball (1979-81)
No. 9      Rick Mount, Purdue basketball (1967-70)
No. 8     Jerry Lucas, Ohio State basketball (1959-62)
No. 7     Nile Kinnick, Iowa football/basketball (1937-39)
No. 6     Dick Butkus, Illinois football (1962-64)