Dick Butkus will return to Illinois football in 2019. Well, a statue of Dick Butkus anyway.
Illinois announced Monday that it will be placing a statue of the Illini great outside a newly-constructed football performance center at Memorial Stadium in 2019.
"Dick Butkus is the greatest defensive player in the history of football, and he embodies the identity of the Illinois football program," said Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman. "His toughness was legendary. His competitiveness was unparalleled. And, his Illini pride is without peer. As we construct the new home for Illinois football, we have a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Dick's legacy. We hope that the Butkus statue will serve as a daily reminder to all those who enter the building of what it means to be a Fighting Illini."
Butkus played at Illinois from 1962-64, where he was named an All-American three times. What's interesting to note given that Butkus went on to become a member of the NFL Hall of Fame after playing linebacker for the Chicago Bears is that Butkus' All-American selections at Illinois in 1962 and 1963 were for his play as a center on the Illinois offensive line. Like so many, Butkus played on both sides of the ball at Illinois and was named the Big Ten's MVP in 1963. In 1964, he was chosen as the college football player of the year by both the AFCA and The Sporting News.
He also starred in NBC sitcom "Hang Time" from 1998 to 2000. That's probably what he's best remembered for. Not football.
As for the Butkus statue outside the performance center, it's all part of Illinois' plan to modernize its football program and catch up with its counterparts in the Big Ten and Power Five conferences. The school recently announced its plans to build the new performance center and upgrade its current facilities. Illinois plans to begin working on the new facility early in 2018, with the plans to have it finished during the summer of 2019 before the football season begins.