Mr. Butkus Receives His Own Sculpture at Illinois (Any Objections?)


College football is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2019 at the same time as we in the NFL are marking our 100th season.

We all love our great sport, but we may disagree on which collegiate program has produced the most outstanding pair of iconic legends.

For example, Alabama can present Don Hutson and Joe Namath while Notre Dame promotes Alan Page and Joe Montana.

One Big 10 school can offer up its own pretty good duo:  Illinois will match you Red Grange and Dick Butkus against your two alumni.

Grange (who wore number 77 in college) and Butkus (number 50 at Illinois) are the only two Fighting Illini to have their numbers retired.

This week Butkus receives another honor on the school’s campus in Champaign as a larger-than-life (is that even possible?) size statue of the middle linebacker is unveiled tomorrow (October 11) outside the main entrance to Memorial Stadium.  There already is a similar statue of Grange on the other side of the historic stadium.    

The Butkus statue project began nearly five years ago and its artist (and Illinois alumnus) George Lundeen provides some background regarding the delay.

“One aspect we had to get by,” Lundee explains, “was Mr. Butkus not wanting to be the subject of a sculpture. He didn’t want to be singled out from his teammates. Fortunately, our athletic director Josh Whitman (another NFL alum) was able to convince him of his value to the Illini program. We hope the students and alumni appreciate the sculpture as they have appreciated what Dick Butkus has brought to the University.” We at NFL Alumni also have appreciated the privilege of having Dick Butkus as one of our Pro Football Hall of Fame members.  We salute you, Mr. Butkus, on this special occasion. As they say in the Windy City: “Bear Down, Chicago Bears!”

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