Dick Butkus is one of the names synonymous with Illinois football. So it’s only fitting that, when the Illini announced the construction of the new Football Performance Center, that the former linebacker would have a statue dedicated in his honor.

But the Butkus statue wouldn’t have been a reality without the help of one generous Illinois donor.

From the moment Illinois talked about building a statue to honor Butkus, Matt Joyce wanted to have his name attached. He’s such a huge fan of the Illini great, he wanted to help the statue become a reality.

FightingIllini.com had a chance to speak with Joyce about why he wanted to help the statue come to life.

“As a Chicagoan, I’m thankful that Dick Butkus went to Illinois,” said Joyce. “Every other school in the country wanted him, but he chose to stay home. If you look at his stats, it’s unbelievable what he accomplished. He was so fierce on the field, but such a gentleman off the field. He and I share a Chicago spirit. My dad (who passed away in 2009) would get a huge kick out of me doing this for Butkus.”

Butkus was a member of the Illini football program in the 1960s and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1964 for his accomplishments.

The Butkus statue is currently being sculpted by Illinois alum George Lundeen and will be unveiled in 2019 with the rest of the Football Performance Center. The statue will overlook the main entrance of the new building.

Illinois’ Football Performance Center is a $79.2 million project that is expected to be completed prior to the start of the 2019 season.

The final steel beam of the structure was set in place on Aug. 6.