How big is Dave Butz? It takes three days to walk around him. To give him a haircut, the barber needs Sherpa guides to the summit. Eisenhower could have used landing boats the size of Dave's shoes. His shirts come from Ringling Brothers. They said if Dave Butz ever got angry, the NFL's offensive linemen would go home to momma.
Butz is streaming.
"Dave is murdering people," said an admiring Pete Wysocki, a Redskin teammate.
Butz is a defensive tackle in his fourth season with the Redskins. Tape measures and scales say he is 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds. They lie. If a mad scientist created a tackle to warm Geroge Allen's heart, it would be a huge, strong, mobile and hostile: A Mack truck in cleats. This is to introduce Dave Butz.
So desperately did Allen want Butz for the Redskins that the coach paid a stunning price in the summer of 1975. He gave the St. Louis Cardinals two first-round draft choices and a second-rounder in exchange for the Purdue Brobdingnagian.
Around the NFL, men who wished only the worst for Allen broke into applause, for here, they were certain, the wily fresh broker had been taken to the cleaner. Of Dave Butz, the word was he would make a nice doorstop, say but he never stop a good runner.
That was because his ability under fire was questioned. When the going got tough, they said, Butz would become a pussycat, more a tricycle than a truck. For three seasons, such melancholy assessments seemed accurate enough. Men owning the Brooklyn Bridge came looking for Allen, certain they could deal with a man who paid so dearly for so little.
At last, after six seasons, Dave Butz is a giant in performance as well as belt size. He caused the fumble that won the season opener. In that one, he bounced the Patriots' best runner loose from the ball. In victory No. 3 two days ago, his mountainous rage once out the St. Louis quarterback on his ear and he helped fill midfield so well the Cardinals gained oly 132 yards running.
"Dave was really maligned when he first came here," Wysocki said, "but he's doing the job. In our 34 defense, he's accepting two and three blocks every play. It's not glorious work, he does in there. But you ask any coach who plays the 34 of he'd like to have Dave Butz, and they'll be lining up to get him.
A coming together of confidence, strength and opportunity has made Butz a better player this season. For the longest time, he sagged wearily under the burden of the Allen trade. For two first-rounders and a second, you might expect to get Superman, or at least the Incredible Hulk. "That deal caused me a little problem with the other players," Butz admits today.
That pressure was compounded by Allen's devotion to wizened players.
"The biggest thing was the old thing of playing the veterans as much as he could," Butz said. "It was hard breaking into the line ahead of Bill Brundige and Ron McDole. Those guys had played together for five years and they had their own personal signals."
At the sound of "Susie," who happened to be tackle Diron Talbert's girl friend, that veteran defensive line moved into its Susie defense. Once Talbert introduced "Watergate" to his defensive vocabulary and was asked if he was thinking of, say John Mitchell. No, Talbert said, Watergate was a decoy. How Mitchell must have envied Talbert.
"Because I didn't catch their personal signals all the time, I'd be left out in the blue," Butz said.
Though he was a starter in seven games last year - an injury kept him out of work - Butz feels he only now has arrived as a Redskin regular. Ironically, that arrival coincided with the departure of Allen.
The irony is that Allen "saved me, financially and mentally," by working the trade with St. Louis. Butz had played out his option and, though a regular and a No. 1 draft choice three years before, was offered an estimated $60,000 to sign.He was amazed by the trade.
"Here were the Cardinals telling me I wasn't worth anything, and here they were getting two first and a second for me," Butz said. "I'll always be grateful to Coach Allen."
But it took Allen's departure, Jack Pardee's hiring as coach and foot surgery for Brundige to give Butz "my first fair chance at being a starter," he said.
Given that chance, Butz was ready after a summer lifting weights with his hometown sheriff Barry Biehl of Belleville, Ill. On a leg-strength test this fall, Butz registered "500 pounds per square inch - that's 100 pounds over anybody else."
"The lifting definitely helped me," Butz said. "My explosion off the line is better and I'm taking on people better.
"I'm starting, I'm playing pretty good and I'm going to remain in the lineup."
Butz spoke loudly. Buildings trembled.
"As long as they give me a fair chance, I can do the job. They're not going to take it away from me now."