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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Urlacher honored during halftime ceremony

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By J.R. Oppenheim / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Former New Mexico Lobo and Chicago Bear linebacker Brian Urlacher flashes the “woof, woof, woof” hand signal after the University retired his number Friday night at University Stadium.

Brian Urlacher, heralded by many as the best New Mexico football player of all time. had his No. 44 officially retired during a halftime ceremony Friday night at University Stadium. Urlacher played for four years in the last 90s before becoming one of the top linebackers in the NFL. Following the ceremony, Urlacher answered questions from Albuquerque media. Here are his responses:

Q: Brian, as a former Lobo, how does it feel coming back to Albuquerque where your football career all began?

Brian Urlacher: It was fun. I was able to come to a game in 2006 on a Thursday against Utah. They were ranked and were playing playing good then. It was fun to watch the guys play and come back here and see all the fans.

Q: You’ve left such an impact and legacy here at Albuquerque. What were your emotions when you got the call saying they were going to retire your jersey?

BU: I said “What day? I want to make sure I’m there.” I was excited. My boy Bryce told me. I was a little shocked. I feel it was kind of soon, but it was really cool to be up there with those other great players.

Q: There are so many jerseys out there tonight, supporting No. 54. For all the athletes out there who look up to you and are trying to go to the NFL professional-level, what advise do you have for those college athletes?

BU: Just have fun, man. Football’s a fun game. Whatever sport you’re playing, if you’re not out there having fun, don’t do it. I really enjoyed playing football when I was in high school, whenever it was. It was fun for me. NFL was a blast as well. Just have fun with it and ride it for as long as you can.

Q: At what point in your college career did you realize it would turn into something professional?

BU: Probably my junior year when I got bigger. I grew. I got to college at like 195. I ended up being 245 when I was done. I started growing and getting bigger and faster and stronger. Probably about my junior year when I starting getting ready for scouts.

Q: What were some of your favorite memories at UNM?
BU: Man, just hanging out with my teammates. I have a bunch of great friends from here, a bunch of good families, the people I met. … Just a bunch of friends I made and my teammates and my time playing football for four years.

Q: What’s it like looking out here after all these many years?
BU: It’s cool to be down here. That’s why I came back in 06. I had a good chance to do that. That was pretty cool. It was a good turnout tonight and the fans have been playing great and the Lobos are playing good.

Q: Can you talk about coming back home? This is New Mexico. Lovington High School. Now your on the field and number’s been retired.

BU: I’ve come a long ways from Lovington. It’s a big deal. There are a lot of people from my hometown that came up tonight to watch this and be a part of it. Very excited, very honored to have a chance and to have the University do this.

Q: What about keeping the connections? I understand you opened up a sports bar here or something like that.

BU: I think that’s in the works. I’m not sure. I think they’re talking about that right now, from what I can gather.

Q: Brian, what’s been the toughest thing about being retired, like missing the game and all that stuff?

BU: Just trying to find something to do with my time. I’ve got a lot of free time now, which is OK. More golf, more fishing, more family time. I don’t miss the game. I’ve said that this whole time. I don’t miss the football game. I just miss my teammates.

Q: You donated half a million (dollars) to UNM, hundreds of thousands of dollars. I think your buddies in Lovington said it’s closer to a million dollars. What made you decide to do things like that for New Mexico?

BU: It feels nice to be in a position to be able to give back. I know other guys have done it before me. It was nice to have the opportunity to do something like that. I have a lot of respect for my hometown and the University of New Mexico as well.

Q: How did opening up a restaurant or a sports bar near here come up?

BU: Somebody asked me about it one day. That’s all.

Q: Having so many people look up to you, especially in Lovington, such a small town. What does that mean when folks come out like this and think about you as a New Mexico man?

BU: It feels good. I think most of us here from New Mexico, I’m sure, it makes you feel good when people appreciate what you did and what you do.

Q: How do you like broadcasting and being on that part of it?

BU: It’s fun. I don’t think I’m a broadcaster. I just talk on CBS. That’s all I do. It’s fun. We’ve got a good panel on our show. It’s just a bunch of guys talking about football for an hour a day. I enjoy it.

Q: Where does this day rank for you?

BU: As far as football memories, post-career memories? It’s awesome. This is one of the best thing I’ve done since I retired, which wasn’t very long ago, but it’s really cool to have this done. It was a big honor for me.

Q: Is this the first football game you’ve been to since you retired?

BU: Yes.

Q: What’s it like being around the field and having some of the same sights and sounds?

BU: I wish I could sit closer to the field so I could watch the game and hear the noises. I’m sitting up there [points to the Tow Diehm Complex End Zone Club]. It’s fun. Football’s football. I don’t care what level it is. It’s all football. Anytime you get a chance to be around it, it’s fun for me.

~Transcribed by J.R. Oppenheim, @JROppenheim