Dick Butkus chiseled an indelible impression on football in America. Now, the game’s most feared defender is going on the offensive to improve health and wellness of Americans of all ages.

These are the charitable endeavors of the Butkus Foundation.

About Dick Butkus

Football’s fiercest linebacker played the game he loved with unrivaled intensity, all for teams from the state of Illinois. He played both sides of the ball at CVS High School in Chicago and the University of Illinois, followed by a Pro Football Hall of Fame (1979) career for the Chicago Bears. His college (#50) and pro (#51) jerseys are long retired. Described as “the most feared man of the game,” Butkus is arguably the greatest defender of all time. A giant Butkus statue greets athletic facilities visitors in Champaign, Ill.

After a football-ending knee injury, Butkus enjoyed a thriving career in fitness, entertainment and business. His energies today are centered on advancing health and wellness, after a routine screening in 2001 revealed an immediate surgical need to address heart disease where he had no symptoms. Now, he wants to bring life-improving health and wellness to all Americans, especially football fans, fellow football alumni, emergency responders and returning service personnel.

Butkus maintains an active fitness and nutrition regimen. He embraces frequent health and medical screenings and treatment. He enjoys time with his wife, three children and five grandchildren.

The Butkus Award®

Nakobe Dean

The Butkus Award was established in Dick Butkus’ honor in 1985 to celebrate the nation’s best collegiate linebacker. High school and pro honors were added in 2008. The Award is characterized as the “Defensive Heisman” recognizing the critical yet frequently overlooked role of defensive leaders. Winners are chosen by a panel of football talent selection experts beginning with watch lists in July, semi-finalists in October, finalists in November and winners in December-January. Butkus representatives arrange surprise presentations for winners before teammates, coaches and family. An annual celebration of Butkus Award linebackers is hosted by Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa.

Each trophy since 2008 is affixed with an inscription reflecting Butkus’ deeply held belief that people who achieve success should actively help others.

“I request that the athlete honored here does not flinch from the American tradition of giving back.”

- Dick Butkus –

▶ 37th Annual Butkus Awards: The Best Linebackers in Football (2021)

Butkus Takes Heart™

Butkus Takes Heart

The Butkus Takes Heart™ is an initiative of the Butkus Foundation to encourage early cardiovascular screening and scans among American adults. Nearly 700,000 people succumb to heart disease each year – the equivalent of 10 football stadiums – half without prior symptoms. It is the leading cause of death in America.

Butkus’ own life was spared by a routine screening in 2001 that identified an immediate need for five-way bypass. The clinic near St. Joseph Hospital credited for identifying and addressing Butkus’ life-threatening condition was renamed the Dick Butkus Center for Cardiac Screening. It has performed thousands of screenings, with about one in five people needing some form of medical attention.

Butkus envisions driving millions of adults to a national network of clinics and providers who can administer free or low-cost screenings and scans. Then, every adult can know the condition of their heart and take responsibility for managing their unique risk factors.

Butkus and NFLA

Dick Butkus and the Butkus Foundation have joined forces with the NFL Alumni Association (NFLA) to advance public education around wellness and obesity. Butkus serves as the player advisor for NFLA-sponsored wellness challenges and has joined other NFLA alumni in encouraging former players and all adults to embrace the topic of obesity and receiving timely medical advice. About four-in-10 American adults and more than half of NFL Alumni struggle with excess weight, which can lead to serious health issues.


I Play Clean®

Serving as a coach for a reality TV series, Butkus was astonished to hear high school athletes talking indifferently about using performance-enhancing drugs. Although pro sports leagues were struggling with the challenge, Butkus was more concerned illegal drug use among teen athletes whose bodies were still developing. Butkus launched a national movement with help from a corporate partner, reaching out to coaches, athletes and parents at 15,000 leading high schools. He held rallies, spoke at statehouses and testified before a U.S. Congressional committee. As a pre-steroid-era athlete, his advice to young athletes was blunt and firm: Eat Well, Train Hard, and Play With Attitude.

Although performance-enhancing drug use has eased and attention has faded, Butkus still requires every high school and collegiate nominee for the Butkus Award® to certify that they play clean and join him in committing to a career free of illegal shortcuts.


The Butkus Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit with a mission of advancing health and wellness. We welcome donations from individuals, trusts and corporations, as well as corporate partnerships. Donations more than $51 are acknowledged. We currently accept gifts by check, and they can be mailed to:

Butkus Foundation
18920 NE 227th Ave
Brush Prairie, WA 98606

Suggested donations include:

  • Butkus Fan -- $51
  • Butkus Friend -- $510
  • Butkus Backer -- $5,100
  • 51 Founder/Executive Partner -- $10,000+

Note: The Butkus Foundation does not carry merchandise and is not a source for memorabilia, autographs or fan correspondence. Please see www.dickbutkus.com for those inquiries.


Contact the Butkus Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, to learn more about joining the effort to advance health and wellness. Corporate inquiries and donations are welcomed.

Note: The Butkus Foundation does not carry merchandise and is not a source for memorabilia, autographs or fan correspondence. Please see www.dickbutkus.com for those inquiries.

© Copyright 2022 Butkus Foundation