Dick Butkus knows a thing or two about what it takes to be great. Many to this day still believe he’s the best middle linebacker to ever play the game. His fearsome tackling and hits may have made him famous, but he was a complete football player. Run at him? Throw at him? It didn’t matter. He’d make opponents pay. This is the sort of shadow Roquan Smith is walking into.
Butkus along with Bill George, Mike Singletary, and Brian Urlacher are considered the Mouth Rushmore of linebackers in Bears history. All are in the Hall of Fame. Smith, a #8 overall pick, is hoping to carve out his own legacy. That isn’t going to be easy. Still, he got off to a great start with one of the best rookie seasons a linebacker has ever had in Chicago.
He finished with 121 tackles, five sacks, and an interception. All that without the benefit of training camp or preseason work. He’ll have both advantages this time around. That and a little bit of friendly advice from Butkus himself. Smith revealed what the Bears legend told him on how to take his game to the next level in Chicago.
As only Butkus can, he kept it simple.
Roquan Smith has the talent and brain, all he needs is the attitude
Talent is not a question for Smith. He has everything a team could look for. He’s big enough, fast enough, athletic enough, and tough enough. He also has a sharp mind for the game as evidenced by how swiftly he picked up the defense last year. None of those things will stop him from being great. The only missing element is playing with that aggressive attitude that characterized Butkus and others.
This comes with confidence and experience. Smith doesn’t seem to lack the former and he’s gaining the latter with each passing day. Every era of great Bears defense has been led by a middle or inside linebacker. Is it any coincidence that they had the #1 unit in the NFL the moment Smith arrived? There is a lot of work to do but if the team can keep the talent on that side of the ball flowing, the sky truly is the limit for him.
Taking the advice of Dick Butkus? It can only help.