Football Player-Turned-Actor Dick Butkus Dies at 80

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Football player-actor-author Dick Butkus passed away in his sleep at age 80 at his home in Malibu, California on October 5. The former Chicago Bears linebacker transitioned to acting in films and on TV later in his career.

Born on December 9, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois, Butkus played high school football and then college football before the NFL drafted him in 1965. He played for the Chicago Bears from 1965-1973, twice recognized as the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. During his tenure with the Bears, Butkus appeared as himself in the acclaimed TV movie Brian's Song starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams.

In 1970, Butkus endorsed the antifreeze Prestone in a commercial in which he says, “Because plugging holes is my business.” The popular advertisement became the first example of a super-successful celebrity-endorsed Super Bowl commercial. He also starred in commercials alongside Bubba Smith for Miller Lite in the 1970s and early '80s.

Richard Butkus Appeared in Many Movies and TV Shows After Retiring from the NFL

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Entertainment Weekly reports, “After retiring from the NFL in 1973, Butkus went on to appear in football-themed films such as The Longest Yard, Necessary Roughness, and Any Given Sunday, and was a regular in sitcoms My Two Dads and Hang Time.” Butkus also appeared in movies such as Cry, Onion!, Mother, Jugs & Speed, Gus, Superdome, Cracking Up, Johnny Dangerously, Hamburger: The Motion Picture, The Stepford Children, Spontaneous Combustion, and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (pictured).

In a 2022 interview with WGN Chicago's Mike Lowe, Butkus talked about his unique tackling style of bear hug, lift up, and slam instead of just going for the legs. Butkus said, “Nobody likes to get hurt. When you’re lifted up, then you’re going down, you have nothing to break your fall. Sometimes. You’re going to let go of the ball and use your hand to break your fall, so I thought, I’m going to remember that. So that’s why I always tried to tackle high. It makes a difference, somewhere along the line, the guy might cough up a ball or a turnover, and it could be the game, so that’s why I always went after everybody like that.”

Lowe then asked Butkus what he hopes his legacy will be in Chicago. “All that ‘legacy’ means to me is I had a golden opportunity, and I was very lucky to do what I loved to do, and that was to play football,” said Butkus.

Author: Robert DeSalvo

Title: Entertainment News Writer


Robert DeSalvo is a professional writer and editor with over 25 years of experience at print and online publications such as Movieline, Playboy, PCH, Fandango, and The A.V. Club. He currently lives in Los Angeles, the setting of his favorite movie, Blade Runner. Robert has interviewed dozens of actors, directors, authors, musicians, and other celebrities during his journalism career, including Brian De Palma, Nicolas Cage, Dustin Hoffman, John Waters, Sigourney Weaver, Julianne Moore, Bryan Cranston, Anne Rice, and many more. Horror movies, sci-fi, cult films as well as gothic, postpunk, and synthwave music are what Robert geeks over.