We learned at least three things from Brian Urlacher’s official induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday evening:
*Bald is beautiful
*Urlacher’s snapping on the fans during his career was a tough-guy act (say what?!)
*The Bears are pretty good at this Hall of Fame thing.
In making his way into Canton’s holy hallowed grounds devoted to gridiron greatness, Urlacher made himself an NFL-best 28th enshrined Bear, but he essentially has an entire era of the franchise’s history that he can lay claim to as his own, that’s something that no Bear can really say of themselves before him.
Sure you have players who helped define the NFL at large — Nagurski, Butkus, Payton — among others, but Urlacher made his name, and thus his worth to Bears fans, by playing alone on a plain of all-time greatness during an era full of what-could-have been’s from bad Super Bowl breaks to lost 10-win seasons that didn’t even end in the postseason to much worse seasons that weren’t even worth remembering.
There was no Super Bowl Shuffling to add grandeur to a career based off tireless work like with Sweetness, nor was there a pre-ESPN distance built in for Urlacher that naturally adds a sheen of folk tale largess to feats we can’t see in HD or weren’t reported on with Twitter acting as a 24-hour comment section built to tear down accomplishment just as said props get too common to bear.
Watch all the 2018 Hall of Fame speeches (including as much of Ray Lewis’s as you can get through) at the NFL’s YouTube page.
Through it all #54 held his composure for the most part — he could come close to snapping at some down points, but he mostly contained his rage and focused it into play that elevated teammates and enthused a fanbase that forever alternates between weariness and jadedness.
Urlacher wasn’t always a feel-good, reassuring figure, he wasn’t a ready-made caricature built socially to be marketed to local pizza joints and the various Chevrolet dealers of Chicagoland and Northwestern Indiana, but he was him at all times. Sure he made himself into a marketable figure even beyond the Chicago area, but that was never what was most important about him.
As presumptuous as Bears fans can be with those we feel “belong” to us we at least allowed Urlacher to get through the awkwardness of his blossoming from awkward, sort of position-less New Mexico freak to professional leader of men and dynamic re-definer of the middle linebacker position.
Now he belongs to the ages but as you can see in his earnest and refreshingly brief speech given his stature (would ask Ray-Ray to take notes, but there’s not a more obvious waste of breath to be had), Urlacher really did appreciate the good fortune he had in playing for the team he did for the fans he did and at the time he did.
With play that seemed timeless as soon as we met him, this latest Bears standard bearer didn’t have to bow to any time period or fit in to any previous conceit of what it meant to do his job beyond those he was comfortable to fit into.
Previous Coverage: 13 For 13, Brian Urlacher’s NFL Story
Until the Bears reach another championship game or produce a MKE with game that Mike could respect, they are a franchise that’ll be looking to go back to the future with any new success, back to the time when an unsure first-round selection was tasked with both upholding a proud history and carving out new space for success to be measured.
How could we have known how right this guy was for the job way back when? We couldn’t have, but we do now.
Regardless of how soon or not we as Bears followers can celebrate another of our own entering Canton, Urlacher’s moment will resonate as much as any other.
Follow Kyle Means on Twitter @Wrk_Wrt; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio