They don't make 'em like Dick Butkus anymore.
He was as feared as linebackers get roaming the interior of defenses, and his accolades validate that. Butkus, who played from 1965 to 1973, finished his career with: eight All-Pro selections (five to the first team), eight Pro Bowls, two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1969, 1970), Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978 and NFL 100 All-Time Team (2019).
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There's a reason why the Butkus Award, instituted in 1985, is given to the top-performing linebackers at the high school, collegiate and professional levels.
But is Butkus the best linebacker of all time? That's something football fans can certainly debate, but while we're on the topic, let's revisit some of the best in the position in NFL history:
Who is the best middle linebacker of all time?
Butkus doesn't have to be first on your list, but he arguably should slot in somewhere around Nos. 3 to 5. These players deserve a mention as the best middle linebackers of all time, in no particular order:
Dick Butkus, Chicago Bears (1965-1973): Eight All-Pro selections (five to the first team), eight Pro Bowls, two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (1969, 1970), Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978 and NFL 100 All-Time Team (2019)
Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens (1996-2012): Two-time Super Bowl champion (XXXV, XLVII), 13-time Pro Bowler, seven-time First-Team All-Pro, two-time Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2003)
Mike Singletary, Chicago Bears (1981-1992): Super Bowl XX champion, 10-time Pro Bowler, seven-time First-Team All-Pro, two-time Defensive Player of the Year (1985, 1988), Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998
Junior Seau, San Diego Chargers/Miami Dolphins/New England Patriots (1990-2009): 12-time Pro Bowler, six-time First-Team All-Pro, Defensive Player of the Year (1992), Walter Payton Man of the Year (1994)
Jack Lambert, Pittsburgh Steelers (1974-1984): Four-time Super Bowl champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV), nine-time Pro Bowler, six-time First-Team All-Pro, Defensive Rookie of the Year (1974), Defensive Player of the Year (1976), Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990
Who is the best defensive player in football history?
There will also be debates here, but it's hard to not name anyone other than Lawrence Taylor. The New York Giants icon, who played from 1981 to 1993, won two Super Bowls (XXI, XXV) along with being a 10-time All-Pro, 10-time Pro Bowler, Defensive Rookie of the Year, three-time Defensive Player of the Year (1981, 1982, 1986), Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1999 and the NFL 100 All-Time Team (2019).
L.T. was also the league MVP in 1986, making him the last defensive player to do so in what is usually an award for quarterbacks. Only Alan Page in 1971 is the other defensive player on the list.
Taylor made the outside linebacker position his own and even succeeded inside after injuries reduced his strengths. He responded as L.T. would, recording seven straight seasons of double-digit sacks and has 132.5 in his career, ranking No. 13 all time. He posted 20.5 sacks in 1986 alone en route to MVP honors.
Was Dick Butkus the greatest Bear in history?
The Bears have their fair share of legendary players, and it's probably more of a personal preference to claim who is the greatest in franchise history.
Along with Butkus and fellow dominant linebacker Singletary, other memorable Bears include running backs Walter Payton and Gale Sayers, tight end Mike Ditka and versatile players in Sid Luckman and Bronco Nagurski, among others.
The Bears' official website, for what it's worth, ranked their best 100 players of all time in 2019 and Butkus placed No. 2 behind Payton.