GREEN BAY — Luke Butkus has gotten the question pretty much his whole football life: During his high school and college playing careers, and while he tried to make it in the NFL as a player, and throughout his coaching career — which he will continue with the Green Bay Packers, having been hired as the team’s assistant offensive line coach Thursday.
Butkus? Are you any relation to …
And most times, Butkus would reply before the query was completed.
“Yes, I am related to him,” he told the Houston Chronicle in an interview in 2004, when he was trying to make the Houston Texans’ roster. “I’m the son of Ron Butkus, whose career with the Chicago Cardinals was cut short by an injury, who drove a truck for 35 years and helped raise five sons and three daughters.”
Yes, Ron Butkus’ more famous brother, Dick, is indeed the Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker and Chicago Bears legend. And now, with his nephew joining new Packers coach Matt LaFleur’s staff, he might have to do something he’s never done before — root for Green Bay, the Bears’ longtime archrival.
Luke Butkus surely will be asked about his famous uncle when LaFleur officially introduces his staff, which should happen soon. Asked in that Houston Chronicle story if he ever grew weary of being asked about Dick, Luke replied, “Why should I? He’s part of my family and I’m proud of him, just like I’m proud of my Uncle Don and Uncle Dave and Uncle John. At the same time, it does get a little old because who can live up to that name, to what he has done?”
While Luke Butkus didn’t have the NFL playing his uncle did — going to training camp with the Bears, San Diego Chargers and Texans, and playing in NFL Europe with the Rein Fire and Cologne Centurions — he’s carved out a solid coaching career, which he began as a graduate assistant at Oregon. He spent the past three years as the offensive line coach at the University of Illinois, his alma mater where he was a two-time All-Big Ten Conference center. He also was the Illini’s offensive line coach in 2012.
His NFL experience, meanwhile, includes stints as the Jacksonville Jaguars assistant line coach (2013-15), as a quality control assistant for the Seattle Seahawks (2010-11) and as an offensive assistant/assistant offensive line coach with the Bears (2007-09).
With the Packers, Butkus, 39, will assist new offensive line coach Adam Stenavich, who spent the past two seasons as the San Francisco 49ers’ assistant offensive line coach. Stenavich, 35, spent time with the Packers on the practice squad and in training camp as a player in 2006 and ’07.
The Packers also added Rayna Stewart as a special teams quality control assistant. Stewart, 45, spent the past four seasons at Vanderbilt, working as the football team’s director of player development (2015-17) before serving as a special teams assistant for the Commodores under Shawn Mennenga, who was hired as the Packers’ special-teams coordinator last month.
Stewart, who played five NFL seasons as a cornerback for the Houston Oilers, Miami Dolphins and Jaguars, served as a defensive quality control coach for the Tennessee Titans from 2009 through 2011 and also worked as a high school athletic director, coach and teacher in Tennessee and Illinois.
Rodgers wants London call
Count quarterback Aaron Rodgers among the Packers disappointed that the team will not travel to London for an NFL International game again this coming season. With the Carolina Panthers set to play in London in 2019, the Packers are the last remaining franchise in the 32-team NFL not to play in London. Team president/CEO Mark Murphy said last month that the NFL may have to step in and require a Packers game to be played in England in order to make it happen.
“We travel too well,” Rodgers told NFL UK in a red-carpet interview before last weekend’s NFL Honors event. “Nobody wants to give up a home game with the Packers because they know it’s going to be a full house. I’ve made my feelings known about how I want to get over there, our president but it’s tough for these (other teams). We’re not going to give up a home game because we’re sold out for the next 30 years, and nobody wants to give up a home game when we come to town. So hopefully at some point the league will intervene and make us go there, because we all want to go there.”
Rodgers said he’s spoken with players who’ve been to London for games and said the key to enjoying the trip is for the club to make a week of it instead of only a few days.
“The atmosphere is great, but I think the consensus is to be over there for a whole week. The guys who went over there Thursday-Friday said it’s tough with the time change, they’re a little tired, plus you don’t get to do anything,” Rodgers said. “Our week is not that bad schedule-wise, other than Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So to get over there on a Monday, be able to go around the city, maybe there’s a Premier League game we could watch. Just to be able to enjoy the environment.
“There’s so many great fans over there. I’ve talked to some folks in the UK, I went to Belfast last year — there’s Packers bars in all these countries. There’s one in Paris. It’s incredible. The reach of the NFL has become so great. It’s not on soccer’s level yet as far as number of people, but I’d love to get over there, be an ambassador (for the game).”
Jason Wilde covers the Packers for ESPN Wisconsin. Listen to him with former Packers and Badgers offensive lineman Mark Tauscher weekdays from 9-11 on “Wilde & Tausch” on your local ESPN station.
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