By S. T. Karnick
The quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers tend to get the glory, but football is really about blocking and tackling, and games are still won or lost at the line of scrimmage. One of the greatest tacklers of all time was football Hall of Fame honoree Dick Butkus, who played for the University of Illinois and then the Chicago Bears in the 1960s and ’70s.
Butkus was one of the hardest hitters of all time, and he attacked the game—and opposing ball-carriers—with a savagery extraordinary even for his time. Yet his ferocity as a player was in service of a greater good—team success—and although he had an engaging personality and ultimately had some success as a movie actor, during his playing days Butkus never sought undue acclaim from the press or the fans, going about his job as a true professional who simply loved his work.
While the rest of society was exploring fanciful utopias, Butkus and others of his mold were showing young men and women how to succeed: through hard work, dedication, intense application of one’s skills, and application of one’s personal talents to a larger goal. That’s a mindset that still works, and which many people still hold to and admire, despite the depredations of relativism, hatred of authority, and the cult of self-realization and self-expression in substituting vague personal goals in replacement of real moral standards and visible, positive achievements.
Butkus was human like the rest of us and thus had his flaws and failings, but he still serves as a positive example for people growing up today—and people who have already grown older but perhaps not yest as mature as we’d like to be.
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