Legendary Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus passed away Thursday at the age of 80. While with the Bears, Butkus changed the linebacker position into one of the most ferocious positions on the football field. Butkus was a Pro Bowler eight years out of his nine-year career that was cut short due to a chronic knee injury.
News that the Hall of Fame linebacker had passed away broke just before Nick Saban took the stage for "Hey Coach." Eli Gold informed Saban as the show opened and asked for his thoughts.
“He was a great character,” Saban said. “Great player, great person. And he’s legendary. He was one of the guys that made the linebacker position kind of ‘the man,’ so to speak, that made the whole defense be what it is. Great, competitive character, great toughness.”
Although Saban did not know Butkus well, he knew how important he was to the game of football and how he changed the linebacker position. Since Saban took over the Alabama program in 2007, Alabama has had three Butkus Award winners: Rolando McClain, C.J. Mosley and Reuben Foster. One of the things that impressed Saban the most was that Butkus personally delivered the award to each of the winners, giving Saban a chance to get to know him better.
“One of the things I loved about Dick is we’ve had several Butkus Award winners here. He always came and personally gave the guy the award,” Saban said on "Hey Coach" Thursday night. “It was so important to him that whoever was getting the award — it’s not like these other ones that are named after somebody, you go to ESPN and pick them up on some TV show. He came personally, aight? And sat down with every player and gave them the award and spoke with them and spent time with them.”
“I just thought that was fantastic that he had so much respect for quality players — and quality players at his position — that he would make a special trip, and I think we’ve had two or three guys that he came to see. That was really special, and it was my opportunity to get to know him a little bit. He was a special person.”
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