NFL legend Dick Butkus — one of the greatest linebackers of all time — has died, TMZ Sports has learned. He was 80 years old.
We’re told someone went to check on Butkus at his home on Thursday … and he was found unresponsive.
Our sources tell us … paramedics responded to a call for a patient in cardiac arrest at Butkus’ residence in Malibu at 12:51 PM. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Butkus is among the most intimidating players to ever step onto a football field — coming in at 6’3″, 245 pounds, he was a defensive standout at the University of Illinois before joining his hometown Chicago Bears in 1965 … going No. 3 overall in the NFL Draft.
He played his entire professional career with the Bears from 1965 to 1973 … racking up every individual award imaginable — six All-NFL selections, two Defensive Player of the Year honors and eight Pro Bowls.
Butkus earned many nicknames due to his style of play .. including The Maestro of Mayhem, The Enforcer, The Animal and The Robot of Destruction.
Butkus was named to the league’s All-Decade teams in the ’60s and ’70s … as well as the 75th and 100th Anniversary teams.
Butkus — whose career was shortened due to injuries — had 1,020 tackles, 22 interceptions and 27 fumble recoveries over the span of nine seasons. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, his first year of eligibility.
In 1985, the Butkus Award was established to honor the top linebackers at the high school, college and professional levels.
The Bears retired his No. 51 jersey in 1994.
Off the field, Butkus was known for starring in commercials for Miller Lite, Prestone, Schick and Visa … as well as dozens of films and TV shows, including “Any Given Sunday,” “Hang Time,” and “The Last Boy Scout.” He was also an analyst for CBS.
Butkus continued to follow the NFL in retirement — in fact, he posted his weekly picks on his Instagram just hours ago.
Butkus is survived by his wife, Helen, and three children.