CHICAGO — WGN’s Mike Lowe sat down with Chicago’s very own Dick Butkus for a wide-ranging interview about his career on and off the field, his new Twitter feed, and his thoughts on turning 80 years old.
LOWE: When we see you, what is reflected back about us?
BUTKUS: I think it’s my parents and my family work ethic. This city, you know, people work hard at whatever the jobs they have. That seemed to carry over to playing football. For me, at least. It’s totally different than L.A., or something like that, or Vegas, or whatever, all the ‘whatever,’ to me, it’s just solid people, hardworking people, and no bull— people. Tell it like it is, and that’s the way it should be.”)
LOWE: You’re from Roseland on the far South Side. How often do you make it back home?
BUTKUS: This is the second time I’ve traveled in five years. I was born and raised here. It’s good. I see my buddies on the far South Side, see my brothers every once in a while, when I come in. It’s still, still a good place to come visit, but for the winters, I think I’ll stay where I’m at.
LOWE: At the age of 79, you’re reaching a new generation of fans on Twitter. What made you get on Twitter?
BUTKUS: Ah, that was probably mostly my son got me into it. I told him, I’m backing off on that stuff, man. I don’t need people calling me out all the time, saying things. So, just having a little fun.”
LOWE: It also gives you an outlet to vent – especially about the way the current Bears have played against the archrival Packers.
BUTKUS: Well, you know, since the team can’t do anything against ‘em, I just cringe every time we play ‘em. It’s like c’mon. I don’t know if anything means anything anymore, with the rivalry of playing the Packers or whatever. But if it’s been lost, it sure has been reignited by having Aaron Rodgers say what he says. So why wouldn’t that put a little hair up your rear end and get going?”
LOWE: Speaking of the Packers, there’s that great picture of you. You look like you’re turning away the entire team.
LOWE: Can you describe what was going on in that picture?
BUTKUS: I was coming up the line and I guess I was near the goal line or whatever, and I don’t know, it was all stacked and it kind of looks like I’m doing everything, but I really wasn’t. I was just behind my defensive lineman.
LOWE: The photo suggests a sort of superhuman strength…
BUTKUS: We never did anything like weightlifting. My form of weightlifting was being a furniture mover starting with my brothers when I was in high school, you want to talk about a crap job? Being a mover at 16 years old. So that was my form of weight training.
LOWE: You had an unconventional tackling style – in which you seemed to bear hug opponents, lift them, and slam them to the ground rather than aiming for their legs to trip them up. Why did you tackle like that?
BUTKUS: 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: Decades after your last game, your name is still a shorthand for toughness, for example Rocky’s dog is named Butkus. The toughest character in the movies named his dog after you.
BUTKUS: It’s a compliment, I guess. To me it’s somebody recognized what I was trying to do.
LOWE: Did you know about that in advance? Was that a surprise to you?
BUTKUS: It was a surprise. But when I was at Universal Studios one day, I saw Stallone, and I says ‘hey, what’s going on?’ and he says ‘hey, he’s in one more movie.’ I said, ‘oh good – there’s no residuals, right? He started laughing.
LOWE: You had a great second act as an actor after the knee injury forced you to retire after nine seasons.
BUTKUS: When I finished with my knee at 30 years old, I had to find out what was second best in my life, and that’s, that’s no fun. So, all these people that are working and probably don’t really like doing what they got to do, but out of necessity they have to do that. I’m blessed, I feel very lucky.”
LOWE: You had the best seat in the house for the greatest season of Bears football, 1985 … as the one of the WGN Radio announcers.
BUTKUS: I loved doing that. The Bears were so good and when we went to the Super Bowl. It was a great year to broadcast because you knew they were going to win, and you just make it exciting. They were something else. That team was really something, man.
LOWE: What do you think about the Bears potentially moving to Arlington Heights and out of the city of Chicago?
BUTKUS: I don’t know, I guess that’s just the way things are with the business, you know? Look, the Giants went to New Jersey. You know, I guess if it’s a better deal for them, I guess it’s ok. I have no idea how it’s going to affect the fans, getting there and all that business. If it’s a dome, they’ll be assured a Super Bowl, so that might bring in a little extra cash for the city.
- Butkus on the NFL on CBS (YouTube)
- Hall of Fame speech (Facebook)
- Rocky (YouTube)
- Necessary Roughness (YouTube)
- My Two Dads (YouTube)
- Hang Time (YouTube)
- Miller Lite Commercial (YouTube)
- Chicago Magazine: Seven Bears Players Star in These Strange, Sometimes Horrible Movie and TV Clips
- WGN Radio: From the archives: Classic WGN Radio TV commercial featuring Dick Butkus and William ‘Refrigerator’ Perry
LOWE: Do you think some essence of Bears football will be lost if they move indoors?
BUTKUS: Yes, absolutely.
LOWE: As you approach your 80th birthday, what do you hope your legacy is in this city?
BUTKUS: 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.