Dave Butz, a defensive lineman who led Washington to two Super Bowl titles during the 1980s, has died, the team announced on Friday. He was 72.
No cause of death was listed for Butz, who anchored the team’s defensive line during a span in which Washington won two Super Bowls and played in a third, The Washington Post reported. He is a member of the team’s Ring of Fame and this year was selected as one of its 90 greatest players when Washington commemorated the franchise’s 90th anniversary, according to The Associated Press.
Butz had 64 sacks in 216 regular-season games during his 16-year career in the NFL, 14 of them in Washington. He played his first two seasons in St. Louis after the Cardinals made him their first-round pick (and fifth overall) in the 1973 NFL draft out of Purdue, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.
“Every quarterback I hit knows I hit him,” Butz said when he retired after the 1988 season, the Post reported.
Butz, who was 6-foot-8 and weighed nearly 300 pounds, was one of the NFL’s biggest players when he played. He 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 11½ sacks, according to The Associated Press.
During the 1987 season, Butz checked himself out of a hospital in Arlington, Virginia, after suffering an intestinal virus to play in Washington’s game against the New York Jets in Week 7, the team said in a statement. He delivered a game-saving sack on Ken O’Brien and got a game ball in Washington’s 17-16 win, the Post reported.
He lost 26 pounds because of the virus.
“It was the first time in 15 years that I’ve weighed under 300,” Butz said after the game.
In a tweet, former Washington quarterback Joe Theismann called Butz “a true gentle giant.”
Butz missed only four games during his career and was named to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade team, according to Sports Illustrated.
He played two seasons in St. Louis before a contract glitch made him a free agent for the 1975 season. At the time, NFL rules stated that any team signing a free agent had to compensate the player’s former team, the Post reported.
Washington gave the Cardinals its first-round picks for 1977 and 1978, plus a second-round pick in 1978, according to the newspaper. It was the largest compensation package for a free agent in NFL history, the Post reported.
His performance during the 1983 season dispelled the notion that Butz was not intense or lacked a “mean streak.”
“If you mean do I have the ability to blindside a quarterback or hit him in the middle of the back as he’s throwing the ball, I have absolutely no problem with that whatsoever,” Butz said. “To hit him with 300 pounds, plus another 30 pounds of equipment.
“Because my problem is I’m immense. Once I’m there, I’m going to hit him. But if I had to hit that quarterback — and I could take his legs out from under him, break his legs or whatever — I wouldn’t do it. I’d still hit him high,” Butz added. “I’ve broken collarbones, dislocated a few shoulders on some quarterbacks. On one quarterback, I heard the bone break, when (teammate Karl Lorch) and I hit him. He was trying to get up and I said, ‘Stay down; you’re hurt.’”
Butz is a member of Purdue’s all-time football team and was a finalist for the Lombardi Award in 1982. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.
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