Despite playing in three NFL Super Bowls and earning various pro accolades, the former Purdue All-America defensive tackle says this honor might be the most humbling yet.
How’s this for a stat? While a whopping 5 million individuals have played or coached college football in the past 145 years, only 948 players and 207 coaches have been immortalized in the College Football Hall of Fame. That’s only two ten-thousandths of 1 percent (.0002) who have been deemed worthy of the honor, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) is proud to say it recently was bestowed on one of our own: NRA Board and Life member Dave Butz. The retired 6-foot-7-inch, 280-pound All-Pro defensive tackle—who won two Super Bowl rings with the Washington Redskins in the 1980s—was one of 14 athletes and two coaches inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014 at the 57th NFF (National Football Foundation) Annual Awards Dinner in New York City on Dec. 9.
“It was amazing to be recognized on stage with one of my college film clips playing in the background as I was presented with my certificate,” said Butz, who still lives in disbelief over receiving the honor. “I have Super Bowl rings, but of the 5 million people who have played college football, so few ever receive this award.”
But were football fans really surprised? As a senior at Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Ill., Butz had 132 scholarship offers—including one from the University of Kentucky to play basketball, though he said he played that sport only to enhance his football footwork. He selected Purdue University in Indiana, where he ended up being a three-year starting defensive tackle from 1970 to 1972 and was named to the Boilermakers’ all-time team.
In Butz’s senior year, he received the Zipp Award as college football’s outstanding player and was a Lombardi Award finalist. No wonder he was snapped up as the fifth pick in the first round of the 1973 NFL draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, where he played until he suffered a severe knee injury in 1974 and opted to become a free agent. The Redskins gave up two No. 1 draft picks and a No. 2 pick to sign him—still the largest NFL compensation package given up for a player to date. Over the next 14 years, topping out at 315 pounds with a body mass index of 7.6 percent, Butz earned three trips to the Super Bowl, was named the 1983 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade team. Dubbed the “NFL Ironman,” he was the oldest starter and the oldest to have ever played in the Pro Bowl when he ended his career, retiring in 1989 after missing only four games in 16 seasons. He credits Purdue’s defensive line coach Tony Mason for much of his success. “I was still using what he taught me in my last NFL game about hand and foot placement and reading the offensive line,” he said.
Quick to share credit for this latest honor, Butz said he was fortunate to have been surrounded by outstanding players. He also named Bill Kearns, a friend and fellow member of the Green Jacket Club, a group of avid shotgunners and prominent businessmen, who contacted the Hall of Fame numerous times over a seven-year period hoping to see Butz get recognized.
Butz appreciated that the person who made the College Hall of Fame ceremony’s closing remarks was prior inductee Roger Staubach, who had faced Butz regularly on the field as quarterback for the Redskins’ No. 1 rival—the Dallas Cowboys. Perhaps that’s why Butz’s favorite NFL photo is one of him on his back, holding Staubach by the neck with Staubach’s feet in the air.
Butz, 64, is active in the community, supporting many organizations and charities, including the Boy Scouts of America, Children’s Hospital, the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, March of Dimes and the Special Olympics. An NRA-certified shotgun instructor, Butz also hosts the annual NRA-sponsored “Redskins Sporting Clays Challenge” to raise funds for the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation in support of area youth.
The NFF launched the Hall of Fame in 1951 to immortalize the game’s greatest players and coaches. For more information, visit cfbhall.com.
NRA BOARD SPOTLIGHT
Individual profiles of members of the NRA Board of Directors and their efforts to preserve our right to keep and bear arms.