Iconic Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Urlacher will be joined in Canton, Ohio, by wide receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens, safety Brian Dawkins and fellow linebacker Ray Lewis. Urlacher, drafted by Chicago out of the University of New Mexico with the ninth pick in 2000, overpowered offenses from the outset and earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The 2005 NFL Defensive Player of the Year becomes the 28th Hall of Famer to enter as a Bear and the first since defensive end Richard Dent was immortalized in 2011.
Urlacher recorded 1,353 tackles, 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 90 passes defended, 11 forced fumbles and 15 fumble recoveries over 182 games as a Bear. Urlacher’s feats on the gridiron didn’t go unnoticed and he made eight Pro Bowl squads and was a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade team.
“I knew we had two guys getting in for sure — Randy and Ray,” the 39-year-old Urlacher, a four-time first-team All-Pro who was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame in December 2017, told the Chicago Tribune.
“If you play middle linebacker, you want to play in Chicago because, to me, it’s the most coveted defensive position in football: middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears. To get over the hump the first time, it’s pretty awesome. This is a great class.”
In contrast to notorious troublemakers Lewis and Owens, Urlacher is widely considered an upstanding man who was beloved by his teammates. The 44-year-old Owens, a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time first-team All-Pro selection, amassed 1,078 receptions for 15,934 yards and 153 scores as a member of five NFL franchises. His dominance on the gridiron notwithstanding, Owens is an obnoxious, egotistical, uncaring and unlikable person. After all, there are reasons why an uber-talented player like Owens couldn’t secure a consistent employer for 15 years.
Although for different reasons than Owens, the 42-year-old Lewis is also an exceptionally controversial figure. The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Lewis, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting were indicted on charges of double murder and aggravated assault following a Super Bowl party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000. Lewis initially refused to cooperate with authorities and the white outfit that he wore on the night that Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar were stabbed to death has never been recovered. Lewis testified against Oakley and Sweating and pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. To this day, many people believe that Lewis was involved in the homicides.
While Lewis and Owens have excessive baggage, Urlacher is simply the Bears’ preeminent player since Walter Payton retired after the 1987 season. Brian Urlacher, who the Sporting News named as its most overrated player in 2004, deserves to be a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer.