GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur is promoting Luke Butkus to offensive line coach, the latest domino to fall in the offseason coaching carousel.
Butkus will replace Adam Stenavich, who was promoted to offensive coordinator to replace Nathaniel Hackett, Denver’s new head coach.
Promoting Butkus will add an extra layer of spice to the Packers-Bears rivalry. He is the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus.
“I understand that I’m going to be touched by this question a lot about my last name and the fact that I’m from Chicago,” Luke Butkus said when he was introduced with the rest of LaFleur’s first coaching staff. “It is justified. It’s been a big rivalry the whole time. I happen to have a family member who was on the other side. Now I’m on this side. It’s exciting, and if you love football and you love soccer, it’s pretty cool.
Dick Butkus, who delivered many vicious blows to Packers running backs during his nine-year career, approved of Luke’s decision to join Green Bay. The Chicago tough even got some gear from the Packers.
“He was thrilled for me,” Luke Butkus said in 2019. “He was thrilled for the opportunity that I have to be a part of this, to be back in the NFL. I think it’s all about “When it comes to that, we make sure to take care of our family. It’ll be interesting when we play in Chicago and how it will be, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get here. It’s just an exciting time.”
Butkus was Illinois’ starting center from 1999-2001, earning third-team All-American honors as a senior. He worked for the Chicago Bears (2007-09), Seattle Seahawks (2010-11) and Jacksonville Jaguars (2013-15). Involved in those NFL jobs, he coached Illinois’ offensive line in 2012 and from 2016 to 2018 before joining the Packers as Stenavich’s assistant for the past three seasons.
In training, Stenavich would split his unit into two groups and hand Butkus the management of half the group.
“It’s a tremendous resource. I lean on him very heavily,” Stenavich said in October. “It’s good to have a coach working with you with as much experience as him. He’s been coaching longer than me and he’s a guy you can rely on to handle situations. When certain things happen present, you can pass things on to him and he’ll take care of it. You can ask him to coach a certain group and I’ll go coach another group. Just a guy you can trust and does a great job. He has been a tremendous resource and we are very lucky to have him.
Stenavich and Butkus’ work helped the Packers overcome an incredible string of injuries last season. The season started without All-Pro David Bakhtiari and with two rookies in the starting lineup. At one point, the unit was losing four starters to knee injuries. At the end of the season, the team started eight combinations up front.
“Throughout the week, Coach Steno, Coach Butkus, they give us so much information and it’s really easy,” left guard Jon Runyan said in December. “It’s just kind of like a two-way conversation. They make it so simple and so easy to understand that we go there, we take everything they tell us from the movie theater to the field and it’s really easy to follow. It’s really great to have these two guys. They just do their job to such a high standard, it makes it a lot easier for us. There is no doubt when we are on the pitch.
Butkus played his college prom at Illinois. His tenacity does not come from his legendary uncle, however. Rather, he came as the youngest of eight children.
“I think that’s the story of every offensive lineman,” he told the Chicago Tribune in 2001. “I’ve always been big for my age. I was kind of fat and chubby. My brothers were tall. My dad is tall (6-foot-4, 280 pounds),” Luke said. “They fed us well in the Butkus house. I don’t think there was a piece of furniture or a window that my brothers and I did not break.