At 6 ft., 7 in., and 295 pounds, with a neck like a fence post and shoes the size of Rhode Island, Dave Butz is hard to miss, even out of uniform. But the man who ranks as probably the best defensive tackle ever to wear a Washington Redskins uniform is actually a monster in size only. The rest of him has a degree from Purdue University; lives a normal life with his wife and three children; and has carved a reputation for himself in the delicate craft of making wooden duck decoys.
If you happen to want one of his handcrafted ducks, either for the real thing or simply as a decoration for the dining room, allow six months for delivery.
Butz wouldn't be out of place at a PTA meeting, a night at the opera, or strolling the corridors of the Smithsonian Institution. But he's also very much at home out there banging heads with his fellow behemoths every weekend of the fall and early winter.
What makes Dave worth his weight in tanks is that he conducts business all up and down the line of scrimmage, no appointment necessary. He is the kind of player who reaches into heavy traffic, sorts out whatever players are there, and keeps the man with the ball.
Butz has already spent 15 years in the National Football League at a position most guys can't handle physically anywhere near that long. And yet the quickness, the drive, the ability to size up a situation and react to it, are as sharp now as when he was a rookie in 1973 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
When an injury sidelined Dave in the opening game of the 1974 season, he decided to play out his option and sign with the Redskins. The compensation package Washington had to give St. Louis (two first-round draft picks plus a second-round selection) was one of the biggest ever awarded in pro football.
Whenever a head coach tells the media, ``I won't know how we played until I break down the films,'' he's really talking about people like Dave Butz. Defensive linemen get graded on all kinds of things like aggressiveness, reaction time, ability to read the offense, number of tackles made, and fumbles caused.
A good day at the office for Butz is when Washington holds its opponent to two touchdowns or less. When this happens, Dave usually gets to spend as much time in the opposition's backfield as he does getting dressed.
Amazingly, Butz had been in the league 10 years before he made his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He was impossible to ignore in 1983, however, after leading the Redskins to their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
That season Dave was credited with 11 quarterback sacks, causing five fumbles (one of which he recovered), and 69 unassisted tackles. Opponents almost felt like asking the officials to check for an extra hand - maybe two.
Asked to comment on Butz, Washington coach Joe Gibbs once told reporters: ``Dave is a guy who picks up very quickly on things the opposition is doing, and then turns them to his own advantage. You get the same intensity from him every week, and some of that is going to rub off on his teammates.''
Butz has a unique way of keeping himself mentally and physically sharp for his job.
``In the off-season, I like to get away from the game almost totally,'' he explained. ``I don't work out a lot. In fact, I don't work out much at all. So when it is time to go to training camp, I'm ready.''
The Redskins seem to think the chief difference between Butz and the Washington Monument is that they can put their landmark on an airliner and take it on the road!