CANTON, Ohio – Moments after Bears players entered their locker room Thursday night at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, they were greeted by a very special guest.
The visitor was none other than former Bears star middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday night in the same stadium.
"It was a special moment for our organization," said coach Matt Nagy, who introduced Urlacher to the team. "The guys didn't really know what was going on. We kind of kept it as a surprise. Once they got into the locker room, we called them up and we had him come out of the door and just kind of show up.
"Right away you could feel the sense of, ‘wow, here he is, and this is who this guy is.' A lot of them know who he was and how great of a player he was."
After Nagy's introduction, Urlacher spoke to the team, thanking Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace for inviting him to the locker room and offering some advice before the Bears faced the Baltimore Ravens in the Hall of Fame Game.
"Enjoy it because for you young guys, you're going to get a lot of reps tonight that you might not get later in the preseason," Urlacher said. "Take advantage of the reps you get. Every rep you get is on film. That's being put around all the NFL. It's like your audition, so take advantage of it."
Urlacher also told the Bears players that he's excited about the 2018 season, saying: "I think you're going in the right direction. The NFC is tough, but I think you're all going to be right there at the top."
The eight-time Pro Bowler closed by discussing the Bears' storied tradition.
"I'm [the 28th member of the organization] going into the Hall of Fame," Urlacher said. "Think about that—28 Hall of Famers before you guys have put on this jersey. Walter Payton, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, Gale Sayers; the list goes on and on, just realize that and be proud to put that jersey on.
"I was proud to wear it for 13 years. It didn't always work out great for us, but it was still fun. I had great teammates, great memories. I'm just happy to be part of this organization."
After touring the Hall of Fame Wednesday night and then hearing from Urlacher Thursday night, Bears players no doubt gained a greater appreciation for the history of the game they play.
"I think they did," Nagy said. "I saw just from noticing where they were when they were at the Hall of Fame, the videos they were taking, the pictures, the conversations that were going on, they understand the significance. They were all talking about it.
"And then for [Urlacher] to just give a little talk to the guys, you don't get many of those. It was a special moment. I know I had chills listening to him talk and I know our guys did, too. It's just a night we'll never forget."