An incomparable Bears legend shared a special moment with one of the team’s current stars after Tuesday’s OTA practice in the Walter Payton Center.
With the entire team gathered around him near midfield, Hall of Fame middle linebacker Dick Butkus surprised outside linebacker Khalil Mack by presenting him with the 2018 Butkus Award as the NFL’s best linebacker.
“I just want to say how honored and proud I am to present him with this award because the meaning of a linebacker, what he did for this team as far as us fans watching on TV, this son of a [gun] can play,” Butkus said.
The Butkus Award has been given to the top college linebacker since 1985. It was expanded to include the best linebackers in high school and the NFL in 2008. The awards are presented by the Butkus Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports the “I Play Clean” anti-steroid initiative.
Mack also won a Butkus Award in 2016 when he was with the Raiders. In his first season with the Bears last year, he was named first-team All-Pro and voted to his fourth straight Pro Bowl after leading the team with 12.5 sacks, a career-high six forced fumbles and 18 quarterback hits. He also ranked second with 10 tackles-for-loss.
Mack’s 12.5 sacks were the most by a Bears player since Hall of Famer Richard Dent also had 12.5 sacks in 1993. Mack’s 12.5 sacks tied for the third most in franchise history behind Dent’s 17.5 in 1984 and 17.0 in 1985.
“There are a couple things that go along with winning this,” Butkus said. “No. 1, it means that he’s the best of the best linebackers in the country. And No. 2, more importantly, is that by accepting this award, he accepts the responsibility of giving back and serving others. I’m sure somewhere along the line he was helped to get to this part, and he’s got to turn around and help somebody else.”
Before presenting the award to Mack, Butkus thanked all of the Bears players for last year’s resurgent season.
“I’d like to congratulate you guys on the job that you did last year,” Butkus said. “You made a lot of people, a lot of old Bears fans and a lot of old Bears players, come out of hibernation. And we look forward to this coming year and eventually going to the big one.”
Butkus was recently named the second-best player in Bears history behind Walter Payton by writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson in the Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook. Considered by many to be the most ferocious defensive player in NFL history, Butkus was an intimidating and relentless force who possessed talent, aggression and hostility.
Butkus was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight NFL seasons. He was also selected as an All Pro in seven of his nine years with the Bears. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979 in his first year of eligibility, the Illinois product set an NFL record that has since been broken with 25 career fumble recoveries.
Butkus is in town to attend the Bears100 Celebration Weekend Friday through Sunday at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.
“This is 100 years of Bear football,” Butkus told the current team. “I just want to let you know how proud you must and should feel belonging to this organization. For it to last 100 years, somebody’s doing something right, so you ought to be very proud to be called a Bear.”