Butkus Visits The Steel City
By Bamaslammer – Bolts Team Reporter
Birmingham – (30 March 2001) — Your tired, you’ve been driving for hours. You pull off the highway to get some gas and something to drink. As your gassing your vehicle a tan and crème RV pulls up and a middle age man with a crew cut jumps out and begin fueling his. He runs in the store and back out and you think to yourself, “Gosh, If I didn’t know better I’d say that was Dick Butkus.”
Well guess what, You don’t know better because that is exactly how Dick gets around. Dick Butkus, arguably the greatest Linebacker that every lived and the director of competition for the XFL drove himself into Birmingham with his home on wheels Thursday.
Dick will be attending the game Saturday but will most likely not be announcing it as he has recently. His primary goal was to talk to the players. He held a players only meeting that lasted about an hour. During that time he took questions from the players mostly about things that concerned them as employees of the XFL. Although Dick said that there were few questions about league stability he did mention telling them to ignore the press reports of the league folding.
Later the local TV stations Fox 6 and NBC 13 took their turns talking to the great one. Dick emphasized that the league will continue with or without NBC. The original business plan did not include a major network anyway.
He said he was taken aback at the number of people who wanted very badly for the XFL to fail because of Jim McMahon’s involvement.
On McMahon Dick described him as a work-a-holic. Someone that was committed to making this succeed and money meant nothing to him.
When Dick was asked what was good and bad about the league he referenced all of the mistakes they had made, mistakes that they were working to correct for 2002.
On the positive note he said that the league provided opportunities for great players that don’t quite make it in the NFL to try and develop while taking care of their families.
Dick made numerous references to his concern for the players. He said that they were looking at increasing pay and improving conditions on road trips, training facilities, medical care etc…
After the TV press was finished Doug Segrest from the Birmingham News and myself grilled him more specifically about the Bolts. Doug asked him straight up, “With NBC pulling out are you going to be moving the Birmingham Franchise?” His answer was “No we are not”. I asked him if the Bolts poor play had been a concern? He tried not to acknowledge that the Bolts were that bad, he did however note that the Birmingham team seemed to be snakebit.
While waiting for Dick to make his appearance I spent a few minutes with offensive Lineman Matt Hogg. The 6′ 5″ 306lb Hogg has been in camp with the Lions, Eagles, and Panthers of the NFL. He also spent the 99 season playing for the Barcelona Dragons for NFL Europe. I asked him how XFL defensive lines rated compared to the NFL and Europe. He said that the NFLEL defensive lines were definitely not as good as the XFL. He said that they weren’t as good as starting DL’s in the NFL, but fell somewhere in between. On the upcoming opponent Orlando he responded with almost a sneer. Clearly this is a team that has handed their collective butts to them and they want to pay them back badly. What’s up next for Matt? Matt said that he had signed a one-year contract with the XFL and that it included an option for year two. He planned on returning to the Bolts in 2002.