Illini Legend Butkus To Get Memorial Stadium Statue
A University of Illinois Fighting Illini legend will be immortalized in bronze.
Fighting Illini Athletic Director Josh Whitman announced that the university has commissioned U of I alumnus George Lundeen to create a bronze statue of Dick Butkus to display on the east side of Memorial Stadium.
Whitman explained that Butkus personifies what it means to be a Fighting Illini. He adds Butkus was very humble when approached about a statue and needed some convincing.
"We didn’t have to break his arm but we had to twist it a little but to convince him that that was a great opportunity to celebrate him and one to ultimately benefit the University of Illinois," Whitman said.
In a news release, Butkus thanked the U of I for the honor. "I am very humbled about this,” Butkus said. “Usually when you get a statue you are in the dirt, so this will be very different. I appreciate the tribute, but it is very humbling. I certainly didn’t come to the University of Illinois to play football and have a statue made, but I need to acknowledge my teammates I played with back then."
"It was a good group and I think everybody had the same mentality when they came here to go to school," he said. "The program hadn’t won in a long time and Pete Elliott’s first class, we went to the Rose Bowl two years later, so that is special."
The Butkus statue will be paid for by private donors. Whitman says those donors and a statue rendering will be unveiled later.
Butkus played for the Fighting Illini from 1962-64 and in the NFL for the Chicago Bears from 1965-1973. The Chicago native is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Fighting Illini Hall of Fame.