Hall of Fame enshrinee Brian Urlacher is greeted by Bears players ahead of the Hall of Fame Game.

Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

Joniak's Journal: Urlacher Reflective As He Enters Hall Of Fame

Brian Urlacher will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday.

Jeff Joniak
August 03, 2018 - 5:07 pm
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CANTON, Ohio (WBBM Newsradio) -- The Bears lost 17-16 to the Ravens in the Hall of Fame Game on Thursday evening, but the story of the weekend is Brian Urlacher's upcoming induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday evening.

First impression

While the Bears return to work Saturday and begin preparations for their visit to Cincinnati to play the Bengals next Thursday,, I remain in Canton, Ohio cataloguing the enshrinement of one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history -- No. 54 Brian Urlacher. I had a great time reconnecting with some of Urlacher’s former teammates Thursday night after the Hall of Fame Game, and he was especially moved by the visit from team matriarch Virginia McCaskey after the game.

"When she walked into the room, everyone was like, 'Whoa, that’s George Halas' daughter,'" Urlacher said. "That’s the way I felt. She stayed for about an hour, listened to Lee Brice play some songs. I mean George (McCaskey) and I have become pretty close over the past few years. I was honored honestly."

One of my favorite Bears during my 22-year association with the team is 2005 Pro Bowl safety Mike Brown, who intensely loved the game and his teammates, much like Urlacher did. With players like Ted Washington, Keith Traylor and Tommie Harris up front, Urlacher in the middle and Brown on the back end, the Bears defense was often dominant.

"He was the smartest player I ever played with," Urlacher said of Brown.

Brown left every locker room on game day leading the defensive backs to the field chirping repetitively, "We the ones who make the plays." He made plenty with 20 career interceptions, three touchdowns and eight forced fumbles. He played with a fire and passion, comparable to Urlacher’s, who often pointed to Brown as the true leader of the defense. They were two impact players from the Bears' 2000 draft class. Brown endured calf, Achilles, knee and foot injuries that ruined four of his seasons. It was a shame, but like I’ve said about Urlacher, I will say about Brown, too: Thanks for the memories.

Second thought

I ran into former Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache, who teared up when I asked him what it meant to him for Urlacher to invite him to be part of the weekend festivities.  

"I’m so proud," Blache said. "Felt like a dad. We are very, very close and have been since he got there (Chicago). He is so special to me and my family. He’s family to me. He’s just a cut above. And if there was a Hall of Fame for people, he’d be in it."

Some have questioned Urlacher’s leadership impact on his Bears teams. There's frankly nothing to be questioned.

"He didn’t have to be anything phony," Blache said. "He didn’t have to be rah-rah, even though he would encourage guys at times. He’s never been a look-at-me guy. He’s always been look at us."

Urlacher had a presence in that locker room and on that field that you can't appreciate from the outside looking in. 

"Even though he didn’t act like he’s the man, it was like when you walked into a territory, you know you just kind of smelled the area?" Blache said. "This was Urlacher’s, OK? His performance permeated the area. They knew."

Everyone did.

Third degree

Most believe Urlacher’s best -- and perhaps his favorite -- game was his career-high 25-tackle feast in Arizona on Oct. 16, 2006, when he also had two quarterback hurries, two passes defended and forced a fumble feast. He couldn’t be stopped. The defensive line kept him clean, and he came downhill and sideline-to-sideline unencumbered just cleaning up on the Cardinals. That was the legendary comeback win that galvanized the run to the Super Bowl. In the same game, Brown suffered a Lisfranc fracture in his foot, ending his season.  

"There was some coverages we may or may have screwed up in that game that I don’t think happen if he’s back there," Urlacher said. "Tommie was one of the most explosive D-lineman in the league at that time, so he was missed. We got zero sacks that game as well."

However, Urlacher’s favorite moment is the NFC Championship Game win over the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 21, 2007.  He made four tackles and broke up two passes in the 39-14 win that sent the Bears to the Super Bowl. 

Fourth-and-short

In Urlacher’s 13 seasons with the Bears, he ranked in the top three among linebackers in tackles, solo tackles, passes defensed, fumble recoveries, interceptions and interception return yards. 

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.