CHICAGO — Those in and around the sports world are offering their memories and condolences to the family of Dick Butkus — one of the most iconic sports athletes to ever come from, and play for the City of Chicago — after he died in his sleep overnight Wednesday, according to a statement from the Butkus Family.

“You know, I played with some great ones. Nobody like Butkus. I mean, he was mean. Not only, he could back it up. He just played the game the way it was supposed to be played. If you ever played against him, you better be ready because he was going to knock the s**t out of you. Just the toughest son of a b***h on the earth. He enjoyed kicking people’s a*s and I loved him for that. If everybody played like him, nobody would have scored on us.”

Mike Ditka – Chicago Bears Hall of Fame Tight End

“Dick was the ultimate Bear, and one of the greatest players in NFL history. 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.”

George H. McCaskey – Chairman of the Chicago Bears

“Dick Butkus was a fierce and passionate competitor who helped define the linebacker position as one of the NFL’s all-time greats. Dick’s intuition, toughness and athleticism made him the model linebacker whose name will forever be linked to the position and the Chicago Bears.

“We also remember Dick as a long-time advocate for former players, and players at all levels of the game. The Dick Butkus Award and his foundation honored achievement on the field and service to the community among high school, college and NFL linebackers. Dick was a champion of clean sports as his “I Play Clean” campaign helped raise awareness about the dangers of steroid use among high school athletes.

“We send our deepest condolences tot he Butkus family, the Bears organization and the many fans and people he impacted throughout his life.”

Roger Goodell – NFL Commissioner

“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Dick Butkus, the greatest linebacker in football history.”

“As the head coach of his alma mater that he loved, I had the great honor to meet Dick, one of my childhood idols, last September. He was an amazing person, as well as football player, and a loyal Illini. 

“Dick embodied everything that Illinois football has represented in the past and what we look to represent into the future. His deep love for Illinois football will be honored and remembered forever.”

Bret Bielema – University of Illinois Head Football Coach

“The Greatest Living Illini has left us.”

“Dick Butkus was a giant in a land of giants. In a game built on toughness and tenacity, he stood alone. One of the most imposing figures to ever wear a helmet, away from the field, Dick was self-effacing, humble, and generous. A cultural icon, Dick leaves a legacy on Americana that will never be forgotten.

“On a personal note, the friendship I formed with Dick is something I will always cherish. I am so grateful for the time I was blessed to spend with him and for the many moments that we shared. I will never forget how touched he was when I told him he was the inaugural member of the newly formed Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame, or how emotional he became in learning that we were building a statue in his honor. Nor will I forget dedicating that statue – on a brittle, windy, rainy day that was tailor-made for a ceremony celebrating the toughest man in football.

“We grieve for his loss. We take solace in the many wonderful gifts that Dick gave us, both on the gridiron and in the decades since he left it. On behalf of our entire Illini famILLy, we send our love and condolences to his wife, Helen, and the entire Butkus family, with a reminder that Dick Butkus may be gone, but his memory will live forever at the University of Illinois – a place that he permanently changed with his ferocious heart, his indomitable spirit, and his unshakable loyalty.

“Our University is better, our game is better, and our country is better, all because we were graced by the presence of one Dick Butkus.

“Rest well, my friend.”

Josh Whitman – University of Illinois Director of Athletics

“We lost a legend today. Dick Butkus was a son of Chicago, who embodied the strength and the tenacity of his hometown with every snap he played on the gridiron. He was a true Monster of the Midway, but also an actor, a commentator and a statesman for all things representing our beloved blue and orange. “

“My heart is with the Butkus family and everyone he impacted throughout a tremendous life and career. He was a giant of a player, and a man, and we will always remember his giant love and dedication to the City of Chicago.” 

Brandon Johnson – Mayor of Chicago