He wore No. 51 for the Bears, but nobody ever needed a number to identify him on the field. He had a primal, predatory gait, and he closed on opposing ball carriers like a runaway locomotive. No one was better at finishing a tackle. He would slam a running back to the ground or engulf him with his bulk, making the smaller player disappear behind his wide shoulders as if he had been swallowed whole by a man NFL Films once described as ”Moby Dick in a goldfish bowl.”
Mostly, Dick Butkus’ career was defined by high-impact collisions. When he hit somebody, you could almost hear twisting metal and shattering glass.
”Football is what I am,” he once said. ”I love the hitting.”