Monday, March 24, 2014

Two Bears, Butkus and Halas from the University of Illinois Got Help from Older Brothers

In this post let's look at two Bears with older siblings. As a young kid in the neighborhood of Roseland in Chicago, Dick Butkus was working on his game.  Like Michael Jordan tossing endless free throws, Butkus kicked the football over and over and over again. 

Butkus had older brothers who must have been pretty tough guys.  As a young teenager, Butkus moved furniture with them.  Can you imagine, Dick Butkus and his brothers tossing couches and tables around? Younger siblings often get involved in difficult things earlier.  Sometimes they become exaggerated versions of older siblings. They become tougher, bolder, and more aggressive. 

Butkus of course, paid his dues and then some on the playing fields of the University of Illinois and the Chicago Bears.  The celebrity he earned playing football gave him a second life after football as a TV star and celebrity spokesman.  He played pro football for 9 seasons.   He did light beer commercials with a cast of sports characters for much longer.  And as an actor, he made 150  TV appearances over a long career.  His football celebrity gave him an earning power in TV as the prototype tough guy.

Butkus's boss with the Bears, George Halas, also had some tough older siblings.  Halas was Bohemian.  His mom and dad were entrepreneurs.  His dad died when George was young and his mother and brothers looked after young George and encouraged his involvement in sports.  His brother Walter preceded him to the University of Illinois and went on to coach.  George followed.

Halas was a man with no small ambitions.    He was interested in baseball, but he couldn't hit the curve.  He was a skinny kid who had an appetite for tough play and competition.  His brothers did their best to encourage weight gain.When he built up enough weight he made a solid contribution to the University football, basketball, and baseball teams.  He got a taste of professional football when he played for a semipro industrial team. 

There was something special about George Halas.  The Staley Starch company sensed it and they hired him to build and develop a football team that could outshine all comers.  He put together the Staleys that became his Bears and then the Monsters of the Midway and eventually one of the best teams in NFL history. 

Both Butkus and Halas were achievers who were helped along the way by older siblings.  They both played at the University of Illinois and then moved on to the Chicago Bears and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey. Pillars looks at the top 10 coaches in NFL history.

 Update: Sporting Chance Press's Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey now available--March 2014!  Order your copies here  for immediate shipment.