One of the greatest linebackers to play the sport will become a more permanent fixture at the University of Illinois.
Monday morning, Illinois Athletics released a statement saying that a statue of former football star Dick Butkus would be erected outside the entrance to the school’s new Football Performance Center. It is expected to be completed in time for the 2019 season.
Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said the statue would celebrate the legacy of one of the best defensive players to ever step on a field.
“Dick Butkus is the greatest defensive player in the history of football, and he embodies the identity of the Illinois football program,” Whitman said via FightingIllini.com. “His toughness was legendary. His competitiveness was unparalleled. And, his Illini pride is without peer. As we construct the new home for Illinois football, we have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Dick’s legacy. We hope that the Butkus statue will serve as a daily reminder to all those who enter the building of what it means to be a Fighting Illini.”
Butkus becomes one of just two former Illinois players to have a statue on campus. Red Grange’s statue stands outside Memorial Stadium.
George Lundeen, the artist who created Grange’s statue, will also produce a bronze statue of Butkus.
“I am very humbled about this,” Butkus said according to FightingIllini.com. “Usually when you get a statue you are in the dirt, so this will be very different. I appreciate the tribute, but it is very humbling.”
Butkus was a two-time consensus All-American while at Illinois in the 1960s and was voted as the B1G’s Most Valuable Player in 1963.
He went on to have a nine-year career in the NFL, all with the Chicago Bears. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and was twice named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Butkus’ No. 50 Illinois jersey has already been retired.