Bear for all seasons

Dick Butkus then and now. (Tribune Photos)

He also tried to buy them furniture, but they refused. They did accept live chickens.

Despite being crowded, the Butkus house was well cared for. The white-picket fence out front always seemed newly painted.

This is Butkus now

About eight years ago, curiosity got the better of Butkus, and he made a trip back to Roseland. The house was still there, but the fence was gone.

The current owner told him she should have kept the fence up and that the neighborhood had become dangerous. He could see.

Home these days is the city where "Gidget" was filmed. Of the nearly 13,000 residents of Malibu, Calif., nearly half might have been on your TV screen. Butkus moved there in 1982 to pursue an acting career.

The modern glass and wood Butkus home sits on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and is as far from South Lowe as Mercury is from Pluto.

"I never thought this kid would leave the South Side of Chicago," said Ed O'Bradovich, his former teammate and roommate with the Bears. "In my wildest dreams, I never would have believed he would have moved to California of all places."

But where Butkus lives is not a reflection of who the man has become; rather it is a reflection of what was convenient for the man.

"Malibu has been good to him, but I don't think he ever saw himself as a California guy," Bertetto said. "He still identifies with working-class guys. Any time we are in a restaurant, he always gives me some money to slip to the bus boys. Those are the kind of people he is concerned about."

That was Butkus then

By the fifth grade, Butkus knew.

He competed in swimming, water polo and baseball, but he was obsessed and driven to succeed at a sport he had played only in the sandlot.

At Chicago Vocational High School he was a dominant fullback, but he preferred linebacker, where he made 70 percent of his team's tackles.

At the University of Illinois, Butkus was an All-American twice and won the Tribune's Silver Football as the Big Ten's best player in 1963. The Bears picked him third overall in the 1965 NFL draft, one pick ahead of Gale Sayers.

He became an eight-time Pro Bowler and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. In 1970, the New York Times asked 22 NFL head coaches to name five players they would pick to start a team. More chose Butkus than any other player.

Of all the things Butkus can be proud of, he is proudest of having a vision at age 10 that he willed into reality.

This is Butkus now

Butkus enjoys telling stories the way older men do. But he often tells them with the mischievous grin of a young man.

He doesn't look as tall as his listed height of 6-foot-3 anymore. He is maybe 15 pounds heavier than his playing weight of 250.