And a Legend Exits Football's Finest Stage

| March 20th, 2013

Tomorrow morning, I’ll wake up. I’ll make breakfast – eggs, bacon, cheese, some bread – and drink a nice pot of iced coffee. I will then turn my television to NFL AM, a show I despise, because the topic of conversation will most certainly be one of pertinence to myself and those who read this site daily. The topic will be Brian Urlacher.

It all ended with a press release and a Twitter announcement from Larry Mayer and the Bears organization. At 5:30 PM on a random Wednesday in March Urlacher’s tenure with the team he’d come to represent for the past decade ended. It was followed by a multitude of quotes from GM Phil Emery and George McCaskey. Phrases like “humble superstar” and “all-time great” and “Hall of Fame” were everywhere.The Bears were not showing Urlacher the door. They were sprinkling rose petals on the red carpet leading from Urlacher’s career to the retirement sidewalk.

(If you ask me, the quotes were too prepared and too ready. This decision had been made far sooner than today.)

Brian Urlacher was more than the Bears middle linebacker. He was the heart and soul of their locker and the hero of their fans. He was the link to a brilliant tradition at the franchise’s most storied position. Lach (pronounced Lack with an almost quintessential beauty when uttered through the sparked tones of a Chicago accent) owned this city, obvious to anyone attempting to count the #54 jerseys on  the sixty-one thousand plus gathered on the lakefront each fall. Two Tweets I received immediately after the news broke accurately sum up the response of a majority of fans.

@Pankster198: That is BS!!! Cant believe it!!

@sallakm: I’m at a lost for words so wrong wow

Grammar and spelling aside, those two responses are what was being shouted at dinner tables across the Chicagoland area as news of this divorce became public. There will be no discussion of a chronically-injured knee, salary cap restrictions or a devaluation of the middle linebacker position in the modern NFL. There will a Chicago Bears team without Brian Urlacher for the first time in 13 years and that will be enough to send out for another twelve-pack of Old Style.

Whenever I’m asked about Urlacher, I tend to lean on his catching Michael Vick from behind when discussing his athleticism. It was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen on a playing field. But my favorite Urlacher moments?

There’s this. 2001. The first of back-to-back game winning INT touchdowns for Mike Brown. Urlacher caused Terrell Owens to burrow a hole in the ground to avoid a hit.

There’s this. Self-explanatory.

There is, of course, 2006. My favorite plays? His interception of Chad Pennington in the end zone and strip of Edge James during the “who we thought they were” game.

Brian Urlacher’s tenure in Chicago will be celebrated forever. He is one of the best players to ever don the navy blue and orange. But an NFL player’s career can end overnight. It sure feels like Urlacher’s just did.