- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Roger Staubach stood at the dais at the Waldorf Astoria in New York for the College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. He looked down and saw Dave Butz in the crowd.

“There’s Dave Butz,” Staubach said. “I don’t think I ever saw him smile. He probably still hates me to this day.”

Butz looked back at the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and shook his head yes, breaking up the crowd.

“My favorite picture of Roger Staubach is me holding him around his neck, with his feet straight up in the air, and I’m on my back,” Butz said.



The Washington Redskins may have been shut out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame this time around, but one of their own did receive Hall of Fame honors recently when Butz, a three-year starter at Purdue from 1970 to 1972, an All-American who was named to the Boilermakers’ all-time team and the fifth pick in the 1973 NFL draft, was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

The honor went unnoticed around here, but Butz, a fan favorite during his years at defensive tackle in Washington from 1975 to 1988, still feels very connected to Redskins fans.

“The loyalty of the fans was great,” Butz said.

Butz, 64, was honored for his excellence at Purdue, where his father and his four siblings also went to school. Butz, who played with future NFL greats like Gregg Bingham, Otis Armstrong and the late Darryl Stingley, was heavily recruited by Bo Schembechler at Michigan, who called Butz “the greatest defensive lineman I’ve ever seen.”

He had offers from 132 schools coming out of Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Illinois. “I even had one from Coach [Adolph] Rupp at the University of Kentucky to play basketball,” Butz said. “I came out of high school at 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds, and gave new meaning to the words power forward.”

Butz was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973, but after suffering a severe knee injury in 1974, he made the rare move of playing out his option and becoming a free agent. That was unheard of at the time, because the costs for a team to sign a free agent were so prohibitive — to everyone, but two men, George Allen and Al Davis.

“I had physicals with both the Redskins and the Raiders,” Butz said. “Both contract offers were identical. The Raiders wanted to think about it. George Allen said he wanted to take it. The Raiders called back and wanted me, but by then it was too late.”

Washington gave up a Robert Griffin III-like package to sign Butz — two first-round picks and a second — but Allen got more out of that deal than his son Bruce would years later for Griffin. Butz would play 13 seasons for the Redskins, including All-Pro seasons in 1983 and 1984, and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1980s.

“When I got to Redskins training camp at Dickinson College, I remember waiting for a meeting to break up to talk to George, and the door opened, and all these guys with gray hair and potbellies started coming out,” Butz said. “I was 24 at the time, and I thought, ‘Damn, they got a lot of old coaches here.’ They ended up being my teammates — Ron McDole, Bill Brundige, Diron Talbert. It was the Over the Hill Gang.”

Butz loved playing for George Allen.

George was an excellent motivator,” he said. “I was sitting at the Dulles Marriott eating one day. He came over, took my paper placemat and wrote on the back of it eight things for me to improve on. I still have the placemat. It’s signed, ‘George Allen.’

“We are in the offseason, and this package arrives at my home,” Butz said. “It’s a rolling pin, and it says on the pin, ‘To use on Dave Butz for motivation,’ and it’s signed George Allen. Now he didn’t just give me a regular rolling pin. He gave me one of the best, with ball bearings and everything. He was a class act.”

Perhaps his most memorable game in Washington came during the 1987 season. The Redskins were losing 13-7 to the New York Jets in a key game in the fourth quarter, and came back to win 17-16 — the big play coming on a sack by Butz of quarterback Ken O’Brien.

Hours earlier, Butz had been hooked up to IVs at Fairfax Hospital.

“I had contracted two different types of stomach parasites,” he said. “I missed no practices. But I went from 315 pounds, which was always my playing weight, to 282 pounds. In practice, it felt like someone had opened up my knees and replaced them with red hot embers. It was Saturday night, I drank a glass of water.

“Remember ‘The Exorcist?’ The water blew out of my mouth. We called the team doctor. He met me at Fairfax Hospital. The IV pump couldn’t get fluids in fast enough. They went and got a 16 gauge needle, and I was getting a quart of fluid an hour. I received 12 quarts of fluid from 9 at night to 9 the next morning. When the fluids were normal, I told the doctor, ‘Get a nurse, pull this out, we got a game to play.’ I sacked the quarterback, got a game ball, and went back to Fairfax Hospital after the game, where I got another seven quarts of fluids.”

Those were the days when the Redskins were going to Super Bowls. Butz anchored the Redskins‘ defensive line in three of them, with rings from the 1982 and 1987 championship squads. He follows the team from his home in Belleville, Illinois, where he serves as a board member and outside contractor for the National Rifle Association.

“I wish they were doing better than they are now,” he said. “Those fans are excellent.”

⦁ Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

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