Former University of New Mexico football player Brian Urlacher was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Saturday.
Urlacher was part of eight inductees that comprised the 2018 Hall of Fame class. He was a first-ballot selection after having played his entire NFL career with the Chicago Bears, joining some elite company as one of just 318 total Hall of Fame members.
But he also became the fourth Chicago Bear middle linebacker to join the ranks, rewriting the record book along the way as the team’s leading tackler — continuing the team’s impressive tradition of legendary players at that position to wreak havoc against opponents on the field.
Bill George was the first Bear middle linebacker to be inducted into the Hall of Fame (1974), followed by Dick Butkus (1979), Mike Singletary (1998) and now Urlacher (2018).
Urlacher amassed 1,358 tackles during his 13-year NFL career, 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles and 16 fumble recoveries according to statistics posted on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s website.
The former Lobo was presented by his linebacker coach with the Bears, Bob Babich, who said he thought Urlacher revolutionized the middle linebacker position with his ability to make plays in space at his size.
Urlacher was billed at 6-foot-4-inches and 258 pounds and showed a unique balance of speed and strength that allowed him to make an immediate impact on the field, displaying sure-handed tackling and a strong work ethic right away.
“I think I knew that Brian (Urlacher) was going to be in the Hall of Fame the first time I coached him on the practice field,” Babich said in a video during the presentation, which was broadcast on the NFL Network.
Urlacher was selected by the Bears in the 2000 NFL Draft, with the ninth overall pick. He led the team in tackles and earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
He also garnered the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005 and helped lead Chicago to an NFC Championship the following season in the Bears’ Super Bowl XLI appearance, though the team lost 29-17 to the Indianapolis Colts.
During his playing career, Urlacher earned eight NFL Pro Bowl selections and was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s.
But Urlacher’s induction speech was notably absent of mentioning any of those accomplishments, which probably wasn’t a surprise to most who know about him.
He said it makes him uncomfortable to talk about himself and — after coining family and football as the “two pillars of his life” — he spent the majority of his time at the microphone praising those people that helped support him along the way.
Urlacher, who said prior to the ceremony not to bet on him crying during his address, seemed to choke back tears on several occasions — but fought them off each time.
He recalled how his mother moved the family to Lovington, New Mexico following a divorce to be closer to her parents. Urlacher said she was the hardest working person he’d ever met and sometimes worked three jobs or seven days out of the week — but never missed a practice, a game or any school function.
"And we knew she was there because she was the loudest person screaming in the crowd — sometimes embarrassingly so," Urlacher said during his speech.
The former linebacker also credited his coaches, describing them as the “bedrock of my existence for nearly three decades.” Urlacher said the coaches taught him discipline, hard work and challenged him to be a better man and a better player — in that order. He thanked them for, not only demanding that he commit himself to being the best he could be, but showing him how to put that plan into action as well.
Urlacher has been described by many to possess natural athletic ability and showed promise in many sports, but he seemed to figure out what sport and what side of the ball he enjoyed playing on early in life.
"Playing in my neighborhood I didn't like getting hit, but I damn sure liked hitting people," he quipped. “That's why I stuck to defense.”
He said competition was in his DNA and that competitive nature made him want to win every snap and every game even though he knew it wasn’t realistic.
The Hall of Famer said football did not define him. He said being a football player was his job, but it was not who he is — identifying himself as a husband, father and role model, among other things. But he acknowledged that football has made him a better man, in part because its core values extend past the field and into life.
"Applying what I learned in football to the rest of my life, I have discovered we all win," Urlacher said in his closing statement. "For someone as competitive as I am, that victory means everything to me."
Urlacher joined Bobby Beathard, Robert Bazile, Jerry Kramer, Brian Dawkins, Randy Moss, Ray Lewis and Terrell Owens as the member who made up the 2018 Hall of Fame class.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and football and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.