Former Big Red Top Draft Pick Has Died

Former Big Red and Washington Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz has died at the age of 72

Butz was an All-American defensive lineman at Purdue when the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in the first round of the 1973 NFL Draft. The Chicago native arrived late to camp in 1973 because of a contract squabble but played pretty well during his rookie season. Unfortunately, Butz suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 1974 season opener and didn’t play another game for the Cardinals. The 6-foot-7, 290-pound lineman and Big Red Director of Operations Joe Sullivan could not come to an agreement on a new contract in 1974 so Butz left for Washington.

Dave Butz during his rookie season in St. Louis in 1973.

“He asked for a guaranteed, no-cut contract and he asked for multi-contracts,” Sullivan told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “The things he was asking for make people fat, dumb and happy. I couldn’t agree to All-Pro wages. He’s a nice kid. There’s never been a problem with Dave . . . except money.”

Because of the Rozelle Rule, Washington was forced to turn over two first round draft picks to the Cardinals for signing Butz, but it was well worth it as the mammoth lineman would go on to play over 200 games in 14 seasons with the Redskins and helped them to two Super Bowl victories. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1983 and later inducted into their Ring Of Fame. He was also named to the second team of the 1980s All-Decade Team.

Wrote the legendary sports writer Jim Murray, “It’s either Butz or the Washington Monument, the two most prominent edifices in the nation’s capital.”

“When I think of Dave, I think of all the great plays he’s made for us over the years,” longtime Washington coach and former Big Red assistant coach Joe Gibbs said upon Butz’s retirement. “I think of him coming out of the hospital two years ago to play against the New York Jets. He made one of the biggest plays in the game, and then he checked back into the hospital afterward.”

Butz is a member of Purdue’s all-time team for his outstanding collegiate career from 1970-72. The defensive tackle earned First-Team All-America honors and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2014.

Butz lived in nearby Belleville during his entire NFL playing career and continued to live in the area after retirement.

“I enjoy the region,” he told the Belleville News Democrat in a 2018 interview. “If you open the door for someone, they say thank you, which is a rare thing to find these days. There are a lot of good people who want to be friends with you, regardless if you’re a sports figure or just an ordinary person. People open the door for you here. It’s a good community.”

Condolences go out to the family and friends of Dave Butz.

4 thoughts on “Former Big Red Top Draft Pick Has Died

  1. Thanks for this report, Bob. That quote from Joe Sullivan says it all about Cardinals management of that time.

    Dave Butz was the only player chosen in the first round of the 1973 draft to play in the NFL until 1988. It’s an amazing testament to his endurance, especially for a defensive lineman.

    Butz was one of three Purdue players selected in the first round of the 1973 draft. The others were running back Otis Armstrong (by the Broncos with the 9th overall choice) and wide receiver Darryl Stingley (by the Patriots with the 19th overall choice).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry to hear about his passing away. One can only wonder what might have been with Dave Butz. Too bad also that the three draft picks we received in return were basically wasted.


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