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Dick Butkus honored at Navy Pier tailgate before Bears game

Before Sunday’s Chicago Bears game, fans gathered at Navy Pier to celebrate the life of late legend Dick Butkus.

The event was hosted by his son, Matt Butkus. It was the first public appearance by family since Butkus passed away earlier this month at his home in California.

Family, friends and fans met up Sunday morning at Billy Goat Tavern to honor one of the great players in NFL history.

“It’s definitely a shock,” Matt said.

Ten days after Dick Butkus passed away in his sleep, the emotions are still fresh for Matt.

“Selfishly, you know, I still wish he was here. But, he’s in a better place. So, it’s tough,” Matt said.

Matt said it’s a comfort to know the Butkus family isn’t alone in mourning its loss.

“Chicago fan-base is the best. They’re helping us get through it. As you know, Thursday, I think, maybe, my dad helped in getting us that win in Washington,” Matt said.

Sunday’s tailgate provided a chance for friends and supporters to reminisce.

“He was the monster. That’s the reason we’re the Monsters of Midway, because of him. Dick did everything for the team,” said Bears fan Kristian Rogowski.

Butkus exploits on the gridiron are iconic. Sport Illustrated once called him “the most feared man in the game.”

“Although he was considered to be sort of scary on the field, we know that he was a teddy bear at heart, right?” said Bears fan Angela Cummings.

In retirement, he started the Butkus Foundation, whose mission is to promote and advance health and wellness for everyone.

“He was a person who cared deeply for people, and you can see that through the people who showed out for this event,” Cummings said.

“And my dad always said, ‘Giving back is a big part of it.’ So, we want to keep giving back and keep going on,” Matt said.

There was also a tribute to Butkus at the game. Bears players plan to wear a new #51 patch on their jerseys for the rest of the season to honor Butkus.