ORLANDO – When Bears defensive tackle Akiem Hicks was in high school, he loved playing the Madden video game as superstar middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
At the time, Hicks probably never dreamed that one day he'd not only be voted to the Pro Bowl but get the chance to prepare for the game with Urlacher.
That, however, is exactly what has transpired this week in Orlando, where Hicks is a first-time Pro Bowler and Urlacher is a "Legends Captain" for the NFC team.
"I'm actually getting to know the guy," Hicks said. "He's somebody that I watched when I was in high school. I played with him on Madden. He was dominant on Madden by the way, especially in 2006-07. It's been fun getting to know somebody of his status."
Hicks first met Urlacher this past summer when the former Bears star was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The Bears played in the Hall of Fame Game and Urlacher visited their locker room before the contest.
At the Pro Bowl, though, Hicks is getting a chance to spend quality time with Urlacher.
"We haven't talked a lick of defense," Hicks said. "We've been talking enjoyment of the game, love of the game and how he played it. He told me I would have fit in with his teams. Do you know how special that is for a guy that played him on Madden and watched him for years? That's pretty cool."
Urlacher played his entire 13-year NFL career with the Bears after being selected with the ninth pick in the 2000 draft out of New Mexico. He was voted to eight Pro Bowls, was named NFL Rookie of the Year in 2000 and was selected NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
As a "Legends Captain," Urlacher attended NFC practices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
"It's been awesome," said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. "Just hanging out with him, getting to know him, we're just here having fun together. He's a legendary player, in the Hall of Fame and he's a Bears legend forever. But he's so down to earth."
"It's been fun," said safety Eddie Jackson. "We love Brian Urlacher. He has a great personality. He's like one of us still. You still think he plays football to this day. It's always a blessing. We've got a Hall of Fame guy, especially a guy from the Bears, somebody you watched and looked up to for a long time."