Dave Butz, one of best football players in Illinois state history, dies

Dave Butz, one of the best football players in Illinois state history who went on to win two Super Bowls, has died. He was 72.

A spokesman for the Washington Commanders confirmed that Butz’s family informed the team about the All-Pro defensive lineman’s death Friday. It was not immediately known where Butz died or the cause of his death.

Butz was a three-sport star at Maine South. He was an All-American football player, scored more than 1,500 points in basketball and held the state discus record for 13 years.

Butz spent 14 of his 16 NFL seasons with Washington after breaking into the league with the St. Louis Cardinals, where he played his first two years (1973 and 1974). As one of the league’s biggest players at the time at 6-8 and nearly 300 pounds, he was a key part of Washington’s defense for the franchise’s first two Super Bowl-winning teams in the 1982 and 1987 seasons.

“Every quarterback I hit knows I hit him,” Butz said upon his retirement after the 1988 season.

The fifth overall pick from Purdue in 1973, Butz was an All-Pro selection in 1983 and finished second in voting for AP Defensive Player of the Year when he started all 16 games for Washington and had 11 1/2 sacks. He also made the Pro Bowl that season.

Butz retired after the 1988 season, is a member of Washington’s Ring of Fame and was chosen as one of the organization’s 90 greatest players earlier this year when the team commemorated its 90th anniversary.

The team said on Twitter it was “heartbroken” over the loss of a “Washington legend.”

Former teammate and Washington quarterback Joe Theismann posted: “Lost a dear friend today. Dave Butz. Dave, Mark [Moseley] and I used to ride to games together. A true gentle giant. Rest In Peace my friend.”

Butz had 64 sacks in 216 regular-season games with St. Louis and Washington. He became a free agent after his second season with the Cardinals after an error in his rookie contract. Washington gave up two first-round picks and a second-rounder to the Cardinals as compensation for signing him.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame made him a second-team all-1980s selection for his play during the decade.

Butz is a member of Purdue’s all-time football team. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

In his final NFL season in 1988, Butz played in his 197th game for Washington, at the time a franchise record. In an interview with the Washington Post around the time he set the record, Butz recalled coming up six inches short of a touchdown on one of his two career interceptions — in 1981 against the Bears.

“Only good thing was Walter Payton didn’t catch me,” Butz said of his near score, mentioning the Bears’ legendary running back. “Bad part was that the center did.”

Butz got the game ball the day he broke the record. It was inscribed, “Six inches too short.”

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