CHAMPAIGN – Football fans from across America are paying homage to Dick Butkus. The Illinois and NFL football star died Thursday at the age of 80.
The University of Illinois will honor Butkus during the Fighting Illini versus Nebraska Cornhuskers game on Friday night at Memorial Stadium. U of I Athletics says tributes will include a moment of silence prior to the national anthem, a video tribute at the beginning of halftime, helmet stickers for the Fighting Illini team, and Illinois staff in Butkus shirts.
Near the stadium, flowers are piling up below the statue of Butkus on the campus. Butkus played for the Illini from 1962 to 1964 before joining the Chicago Bears.
Wearing a Dick Butkus jersey, Brad Turner visited the statue honoring the football great.
“[I] think he was one of a kind and one of the best players ever to play,” said Turner, who said he once met Butkus.
Despite wearing a red Nebraska jersey, Linda Ratlief came to take pictures and honor Butkus.
“Followed his career pretty much through the NFL. His name was pretty synonymous with football,” said Ratlief.
People also decorated the iconic Alma Mater statue on central campus with Butkus’ number 50 jersey.
According to the Associated Press, Butkus played his entire career close to home. He was a star linebacker, fullback and kicker at Chicago Vocational High who went on to play at the University of Illinois. Born on December 9, 1942, as the youngest of eight children. He grew up on the city’s South Side as a fan of the Chicago Cardinals, the Bears’ crosstown rivals.
— Illinois Football (@IlliniFootball) October 6, 2023
Near Memorial Stadium @UofIllinois people are leaving 💐 in honor of Dick Butkus, who died yesterday at age 80. Butkus is remembered as a stellar 🏈 player for @IlliniFootball & @ChicagoBears. pic.twitter.com/rmHK8vWC19
— Reg News (@RNewsIPM) October 6, 2023