CHAMPAIGN -- The Red Grange statue outside of Memorial Stadium will be getting some company.
Dick Butkus, the former Chicago Bears and Fighting Illini star consider by many as the greatest linebacker in football history, will be honored with a statue overlooking the entrance to a newly constructed football performance center.
"Dick Butkus is the greatest defensive player in the history of football, and he embodies the identity of the Illinois football program," Director of Athletics Josh Whitman said in a statement released Monday. "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."
UI alum George Lundeen will produce a bronze statue of Butkus that will be placed near the entrance of the new football performance center, which is expected to be completed by the start of the 2019 football season.
"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. 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."