More than 40 years after he earned the Sports Illustrated cover title, Most Feared Man in the Game, iconic former Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus still brings it.
The Hall of Famer s passion for football is unabated by time. Butkus now channels that love through his I Play Clean campaign.
Now 71, Butkus tries to raise awareness about the dangers of steroids and other banned performance enhancers among high school athletes.
One of the fiercest hitters ever was knocked back, recently, stunned by a jaw-dropping revelation that showed the sad depth of football s performance-enhancement culture.
I was at this appearance and this Pop Warner coach comes up to me and says, I finally had to have a meeting with my Pop Warner team s parents, the 9-year-old team. I said, About what? He said after pre-game warm-ups, the parents made the kids go back to the parking lot and forced them to chug two Red Bulls before they held the opening kickoff, Butkus told USA TODAY Sports.
I was like, Geez! I mean do we have to go down to Pop Warner now to stay away from this crap?
Butkus says as much as he wants to help and is praised for his efforts to do so, he is finding it very difficult to get financial support for his initiative.
When he took to a radio appearance to spread his message, Butkus was shocked at the exchange that ensued.
A talk radio host asked me to come on and I said, Yeah, if I can talk about my I Play Clean deal. He said, Oh, yeah, sure. And then he asked me a leading question, saying, You know I like to see guys take steroids because I like to see guys hit home runs.
That talk radio host is lucky the man who terrorized the league from 1965-1973 didn t turn him into a studio indentation right there and then.
I said, What? Why don t you talk to the two dozen parents that I know that lost their kids to suicide coming off that crap? How would you like it then? Butkus growled. The game has been good to me. I ve got to give something back, that is the American tradition.I just feel that they re wrecking the game by doing that stuff. And for what?
Is it all about the dollar? I guess it is.
Butkus is disappointed that there still is no HGH testing in the NFL despite an agreement between the league and the NFLPA to a drug-testing deal that was all but finalized seven months ago one the union is willing to accept if the league relents on Commissioner Roger Goodell s authority in the appeals process.
Butkus thinks that holdup is a shame.
I was talking to one of the NFL officials after the Senate hearing, Butkus says. And he said, This is exactly the rule where these two representatives said, These guys are going to have this HGH testing and everybody agreed, the players association, the league and the council. ...
I don t understand how they could go agree to something, if they really did and the thing is signed and it s going on three years now?I haven t had any high school kids say anything about it, Well, the pros are using it. But in the back of my mind they have to be thinking that.
Because according to our couple of researchers that we use from a couple of universities, there are still over 400,000 (high school kids) that are taking steroids. Let alone those who are lying about it, it could be a lot more.
So it s still an issue. It is a tough, tough thing to get across.It s mostly parents who have kids who are good athletes who are concerned about it.