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Butkus before Nitschke in linebacker poll
January 14, 2013 - Burt Angeli
The greatest linebacker of all time?
A Union-Tribune San Diego poll gives the nod to Dick Butkus, a forcing for the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1973.
“The prototype for the modern middle linebacker, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Butkus was one of the most feared hitters in NFL history,” U-T San Diego reported. “Butkus also developed the technique of separating the ball from the ballcarrier with a ripping motion of his massive arms and hands.
“A five-time all-pro, the Chicago native’s career was cut short by knee injuries. In nine NFL seasons, the intimidating Butkus amassed 1,020 tackles — although he never played for a championship team. Universally regarded as the top middle linebacker in NFL history.”
U-T San Diego surveyed 15 national experts in picking the best linebackers. Twenty-two linebackers received at least one top-10 vote. Only three linebackers – Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert and Lawrence Taylor – were named on all 15 ballots. Ray Lewis and Junior Seau were each named on 12.
Ray Nitschke of the Green Bay Packers (1958-1972) wound up eighth.
“The 6-3, 225-pound Nitschke was the personification of the physical and mental toughness displayed by the Packers of Vince Lombardi,” U-T San Diego wrote. “With Nitschke anchoring the middle, Green Bay won five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls. Nitschke’s trademark tackle, known as the “forearm shiver,” was eventually banned.”
Present Packer star Clay Matthews also received consideration.
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