Everyone knows that Hall of Fame Bears linebacker Dick Butkus is an Illinois legend. Now, he may not be the only member of the family to reach a football pinnacle in the state after his great nephew, Don Butkus, led Mount Carmel (Ill.) High to the state's Class 8A state championship with a 28-14 victory over state power Glenbard (Ill.) North High on Saturday.
As reported by the Associated Press and Chicago Tribune, among other sources, Butkus helped inspire his teammates to their state title victory just by playing in the first place. The senior quarterback was forced to leave the team's state semifinal victory on crutches with what appeared to be a significant ankle injury. Extra rest from the Thanksgiving holidays and plenty of recuperation gave Butkus enough of a lift to have him lead Mount Carmel out onto the field for the state title game.
It turns out the younger Butkus was healthier than it might have appeared, too. In the second quarter he burst through for a 35-yard run to the end zone, giving Mount Carmel a a lead it would never relinquish. He then completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to put Mount Carmel in control with a two touchdown lead.
"It's an insane feeling," Butkus told the Tribune. "I've dreamed about this day since I can remember. I always wanted to be a state champion. This is the greatest moment of my life.
"There was never a question [I would play]. We just taped it up real well. I got treatment all week. The trainers did a great job healing my ankle, and I thank them."
There was no word if the elder Butkus was in attendance in Champlain for the title game, though he could certainly relate to his grand nephew's exuberance in victory. He might have even given him a tip or two about soaking it in just two days earlier at Thanksgiving dinner.