Illinois will put up a statue for legendary linebacker Dick Butkus

Former Illinois linebacker Dick Butkus.

CHAMPAIGN – When the University of Illinois decided to put up a statue to honor their football program during the last remodel of Memorial Stadium, it went to the “Galloping Ghost.”

The choice of Red Grange for that honor was obvious considering his history with the Illini program and that stadium. In 2017, the choice for the second statue was just as obvious.

Dick Butkus, arguably the greatest linebacker in the history of college football who now has an award for the position in the Football Bowl Subdivision, will have a statue erected around the stadium in Champaign.

Athletic Director Josh Whitman made the announcement at a news conference on Monday afternoon, with the statue going outside the new Football Performance Center. It will be created by artist and University of Illinois alum George Lundeen and will be done in time for the start of the 2019 football season.

“I am very humbled about this. Usually when you get a statue you are in the dirt, so this will be very different. I appreciate the tribute, but it is very humbling,” said Butkus of the honor in a statement released by the university. “I certainly didn’t come to the University of Illinois to play football and have a statue made, but I need to acknowledge my teammates I played with back then.

“It was a good group and I think everybody had the same mentality when they came here to go to school. The program hadn’t won in a long time and Pete Elliott’s first class, we went to the Rose Bowl two years later, so that is special.”

A native of Chicago and a graduate of Chicago Vocational School, Butkus was a three-year starter at linebacker and center for the Illini from 1962-1964. He was a third-team AP All-American his sophomore year and a first team selection in 1963 and 1964. Butkus also finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting his senior season.

In 1963, he helped Illinois to an 8-1-1 record en route to a Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl appearance. Their 17-7 victory over Washington in Pasadena is the last Rose Bowl the Illini have won. Butkus then went onto a Hall of Fame career with the Bears. where he was an eight-time Pro Bowler, six-time NFL All-Pro, and twice the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.