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Big Ten CommunicationsPublished: 11/21/2023, Last updated: 11/23/2023
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Big Ten Announces Humanitarian and Leadership Awards

Illinois’ Dick Butkus and Indiana’s Richard Coachys chosen to receive Big Ten Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian and Ford-Kinnick Leadership Awards

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ROSEMONT, Ill. –Illinois’ Dick Butkus is this year’s recipient of the Big Ten’s Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award, while Indiana’s Richard Coachys is the Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award honoree, the conference announced Wednesday. These awards recognize Big Ten football students who have achieved success in the areas of humanitarianism and leadership following their academic and athletic careers at a Big Ten university.

Butkus played football for the Illini from 1961-64 as a center on offense and linebacker on defense, leading the Fighting Illini to the 1963 Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl victory over Washington. A member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Butkus was a two-time consensus All-American, three-time All-Big Ten selection, and was named the 1963 Silver Football Award winner as the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player. He finished third in the 1964 Heisman Trophy balloting before going on to a nine-year Hall of Fame career with the NFL's Chicago Bears that included six All-Pro selections.

Butkus finished his Illinois career with 374 tackles and his 145 stops in 1963 stood as the school record until 1976. He was named the 1964 Player of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association.

Butkus was named to the Big Ten Diamond Anniversary Team in 1970, The Sporting News College Coaches All-Time Team, and the University of Illinois All-Century Team. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979 and to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1983. Butkus' Illinois jersey, No. 50, was retired in 1986 and he was named to the Walter Camp Foundation All-Century team in 1989. In 2001, Sports Illustrated ranked Butkus as the best middle linebacker ever. The NFL Network named him the most feared tackler of all time and the No. 10 player in NFL History in 2009 and 2010, respectively. In 2010 he was named the No. 6 Big Ten Icon in the history of the conference by the Big Ten Network, and in 2020 he was tabbed as the No. 8 player in college football history as part of college football's 150th anniversary.

Serving as a coach for a reality TV series, Butkus was astonished to hear high school athletes talking indifferently about using performance-enhancing drugs. Although pro sports leagues were struggling with the challenge, Butkus was more concerned that illegal drug use among teen athletes whose bodies were still developing. Butkus launched a national movement with help from a corporate partner, reaching out to coaches, athletes and parents at 15,000 leading high schools. He held rallies, spoke at statehouses, and testified before a U.S. Congressional committee. As a pre-steroid-era athlete, his advice to young athletes was blunt and firm: Eat well, train hard, and play with attitude.

In addition to his work with Play Clean, Butkus launched the Butkus Takes Heart initiative encourage early cardiovascular screening and scans among American adults. Butkus’ own life was spared by a routine screening in 2001 that identified an immediate need for five-way bypass. The clinic near St. Joseph Hospital credited for identifying and addressing Butkus’ life-threatening condition was renamed the Dick Butkus Center for Cardiac Screening. It has performed thousands of screenings, with about one in five people needing some form of medical attention. The Butkus Takes Heart initiative currently seeks to drive millions of adults to a national network of clinics and providers who can administer free or low-cost screenings and scans.

Coachys graduated from Indiana in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in business and an ROTC commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army. While at Indiana, Coachys earned three varsity letters playing both quarterback and safety. He returned to Indiana years later to receive his MBA in 1971.

Between his undergraduate and MBA, Coachys served active duty for the Army becoming a Vietnam Veteran. He served a total of 34 years in the Army Reserves, rising to the rank of colonel, while earning the Bronze Star for Valor, the Purple Heart, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, combat infantry badge and the National Infantry Association's Order of St. Maurice "Primicerius" Award.

While serving time in active duty during the Vietnam Conflict, Coachys was accompanied by fellow IU teammate Ted Verlihay. Rich was honored to "accompany Ted home from Vietnam to his final resting place in Pittsburgh," and to honor him at a ceremony at Indiana’s Memorial Stadium. Coachys and fellow IU football alumnus Harold Mauro established the Ted Verlihay Award in honor of their friend, which is presented annually to the IU football player who has demonstrated the best mental attitude and loyalty to the University football program.

Rich continued his football career, however this time on the sidelines at the Tennessee, Indiana, Southern Mississippi and Duke. He is currently President of Coachys & Associations and of LiteFighter Systems.

LiteFighter Systems is a family owned, VA certified, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) that provides rugged, lightweight, versatile and highly mobile individual shelter systems and tactical gear for the US Military and the outdoor camping community. The organization develops pioneering products in military protection. Notably, the group's LiteFighter 1 Shelter System has become recognized as the emblem of military protection for U.S. soldiers around the globe, along with the creation of other military protection products.

The Ford-Kinnick Leadership and Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Awards are part of the Big Ten’s annual awards program. The Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award is named for Michigan’s Gerald Ford and Iowa’s Nile Kinnick. The Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award is named for Minnesota’s Tony Dungy and Indiana’s Anthony Thompson. For more information on these awards, including biographical information on the namesakes, visit

Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award Recipients

2011: Archie Griffin, OSU

2012: Jon Runyan, MICH

2013: Gene Washington, MSU

2014: Mike Hopkins, ILL

2015: Brian Griese, MICH

2016: Reggie McKenzie, MICH

2017: Troy Vincent, WIS

2018: Antwaan Randle El, IND

2019: Doug Schlereth, IND

2020: Napoleon Harris, NU

2021: Pat Richter, WIS

2022: Ron Guenther, ILL

2023: Richard Coachys, IND

Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award Recipients

2011: George Taliaferro, IND

2012: Chris Spielman, OSU

2013: Drew Brees, PUR

2014: Brian Griese, MICH

2015: John Shinsky, MSU

2016: Trent Green, IND

2017: Chad Greenway, IOWA

2018: Jake Wood, WIS

2019: J.J. Watt, WIS

2020: Vincent Smith, MICH

2021: Malcolm Jenkins, OSU

2022: Nate Sudfeld, IND

2023: Dick Butkus, ILL