(Ray Lewis photo courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens)
(Dick Butkus photo on cover courtesy of the Chicago Bears)
Talk of Fame Network
Dick Butkus played only nine NFL seasons before a series of knee injuries forced his retirement.
But what a nine years they were.
Butkus played middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears from 1965-73 at the highest level the position has ever been played. He was voted to eight Pro Bowls and two all-decade teams, both the 1960s and 1970s. He also was named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team and became a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
So when the Talk of Fame Network asked our listeners and readers in the weekly poll to vote for the greatest middle linebacker of all time, we had a pretty good idea how the voting would go. And it went as expected.
Butkus received more than half the votes in the poll -- 54.9 percent -- to easily outdistance Ray Lewis, who came in second with 16.4 percent. Joe Schmidt and Jack Lambert were next at 8.2 percent apiece, followed by Ray Nitschke and Mike Singletary at 4.1 percent apiece. Chuck Bednarik and Willie Lanier rounded out the Top 6.
Lambert, Lanier and Nitschke joined Butkus on the 75th anniversary team and Schmidt was named to the 50th anniversary team. Bednarik (150s), Singletary (1980s) and Lewis (2000s) were all all-decade selections. All are in the Hall of Fame except Lewis, who becomes eligible in 2018.
Butkus was the third overall pick of the 1965 draft by the Bears who went on to collect 49 career takeaways, second all-time among NFL middle linebackers. His 27 fumble recoveries set an NFL record. The three Talk of Fame Network hosts -- Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge -- all cast their ballots for Butkus.
“There is Dick Butkus,” Borges said, “and a lot if territory before you get to second place. The greatest MLB ever. Even his name fits the position.”