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Urlacher praised by ex-teammates, ex-coaches

CANTON, Ohio – Several of Brian Urlacher's former teammates and coaches attended his Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday night in Canton. Here's some of what they had to say:

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Charles Tillman

Former Bears cornerback (2003-14)

On being teammates with Urlacher:

"He was a great player. He was a field general. What he did on the field and the way he led our defense, from '03 to 2012 we were pretty amazing and a lot of that was done with Brian."

On his first impressions of Urlacher:

"[I was thinking], 'Oh my God. He's really big. That's Brian Urlacher.' But when you see him the first time, you're really trying to play like, 'That's Brian Urlacher.' Then you go call your home boys and you're like, 'Oh snap, yo, I just saw Brian Urlacher!' You get that fan perspective; you're kind of star struck a little bit."

On why it was important for Tillman to attend the induction ceremony:

"He was a great friend to me, on the field, off the field. I was a teammate of his for over a decade; How could I not come here? Just to show support and how appreciative I am as a teammate and more importantly just how proud I am, as a teammate, as a fan. He's made it. This is football royalty. I'm just so thankful for him, I'm happy for him and this is awesome. I'm getting goosebumps right now."

On Urlacher being inducted into the Hall of Fame:

"He's very deserving, just what he's done on the field. His stats don't lie. He was one hell of a player on the field. He was fast, he was tough, explosive, athletic. He was smart. One hell of a leader."

On how Urlacher handled pressure:

"He handled it well. He was a guy who didn't talk too much. Brian Urlacher is a guy who is really more about just playing. He's not a talker, not a big guy who does speeches. He just wants to play football."

On what stood out about Urlacher's football IQ:

"How smart he was and how he could call out a play that the offense was doing. He would know to audible and put us in a better defense, so we wouldn't get exposed. His football IQ was very high."

On how Urlacher enjoyed practice:

"He made practice fun. We were a bunch of big kids who just played a kid's game, a bunch of adults playing a kid's game, and he was one of the greatest teammates you could ever have. For him to have all the fame and be the face of the team, he made you feel like you were the star. He was never about the media. He was a very humble guy, not a 'me, me, me' guy. He was a team guy all the time."

On Urlacher's unique athletic skills:

"If you played Madden and you could create a player, I think Brian Urlacher is essentially the created football player on Madden. At that time when he came out, you had a strong safety going to middle linebacker, That's unheard of. The size, the speed, football IQ, his leadership skills. I don't think he gets enough credit for his ability to lead. He did an amazing job of leading our defense, not for a year or two but for a number of years. We had a really good defense and a lot of that was because of Brian."

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George H. McCaskey

Bears chairman

On Urlacher's playing career:

"He belongs right up there with the immortals, joining a long list of great Bears [Hall of Famers], more than any other team. It's typical Brian that in the parade today when he could have had all the attention focused on himself, he was wearing a Walter Payton jersey, saluting the greatest player of all time and tipping his cap to all those that came before him. Class act."

On who attended Urlacher's private party Thursday night in Canton:

"It wasn't just former coaches. It wasn't just former players. It was trainers, equipment guys. He invited the community relations department from the Bears, and that's the kind of guy he is. It's always about somebody else. That's the kind of leader he was for the Bears."

On what made Urlacher special as a player:

"It's great to see the highlights. The speed, the power, and the smile on the field. He just loved playing, and he was as happy when a teammate had success as when he had success himself, and that's the kind of guy he is."

On watching Urlacher as a fan:

"I got to watch a little bit of Bill George, a lot of Dick Butkus, all of Mike Singletary and all of Brian Urlacher, and he belongs right up there with the best of them continuing the great legacy of middle linebackers at the Chicago Bears."

On what Urlacher was like off the field:

"Class guy. Like I said it's always about somebody else. He never wanted the attention. He wanted to make sure that other guys got credit for their accomplishments. That was just as important to him."

On Urlacher's intangibles:

"He's got strength of character. He never let [his success] go to his head. He always stayed humble and always knew that he was representing a legacy franchise in the National Football League."

On recent communications with Urlacher:

"He and I have been trading texts the last couple days. He sent me a photo of himself standing next to George Halas' bust in the Hall of Fame. He knew I would appreciate that and share it with my family, and they loved it. Again, that's the kind of guy he is. He's always looking to someone else, saluting the Bears' past. He's a very classy individual."

On who will be the next Bears Hall of Famer:

'You name it. [Jim] Covert. [Jay] Hilgenberg, [Lance] Briggs. [Steve] McMichael. [Devin] Hester. [Rick] Casares. Harlon Hill. We've got a little backlog of Bears that deserve to go in the Hall of Fame, so hopefully the selectors will do the right thing."

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Lovie Smith

Former Bears head coach (2004-12)

On coaching Urlacher:

"He was a coach's dream on and off the field, a perfect leader. Anything you wanted a 'Mike' linebacker to do, he was able to. He played the run as well as anybody, was a great pass defender, an outstanding leader. He could do it all."

On how special he was as a player:

"I've had the privilege of being around a lot of guys, but of course there's a reason why he's going into the Hall of Fame. You knew it early on and really on a daily basis, he'd act and play like a Hall of Famer."

On Urlacher being a team player:

"He's the best superstar you'll ever be around. He treated everybody like you're his best friend, respectful to everybody. He did it all."

On Urlacher appreciating his accomplishments:

"I think now when you're away from the game, you have a chance to reflect a little bit, look back on what you've done, and you see how many people are genuinely excited for you. I think he could take it all in and appreciate it a little bit. I know he's really excited about speaking and just really excited about all his teammates who came out to show support."

On having so many former teammates and coaches at the ceremony:

"There's a reason why we're all here. Most of us grew in football doing things, but when you're around a guy like that, you want to be able to show respect and really be here to witness a great moment like this. It's hard getting into the Hall of Fame, but he did it."

On why it was important for Smith to attend the ceremony:

"We talk about football being a little bit more than just a game; it's about relationships. Brian and so many of the players I had a chance to be around are family. So we support family, it's as simple as that."

On what Urlacher brought to the table:

"With a guy like that, it doesn't matter what you're doing. Anything he's a part of, of course it's going to be better. To try to put it into a few words exactly what Brian brought to the table, he just brought everything. Anything you were needing at the time—leadership, a confident voice—he just kind of knew what to do."

On Urlacher setting the tone at practice:

"There are just so many memories you have of what Brian brought to the practice field. First off, he's a pro, and he knew that practice was important. He knew that people were watching him, and to be a leader you need to show them how to practice before you play. That's what we saw on a daily basis."

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Ron Rivera

Former Bears defensive coordinator (2004-06)

On coaching Urlacher:

"It was really a treat. You've got guys that are special and he was special. And the thing that made him such a great player was not just that he was a good football player, a smart football player, a tremendous athlete but a good person. He really epitomized what it was to be a team member and he lived it."

On coaching Urlacher after playing with Mike Singletary:

"To be fortunate to have coached Brian, be one of the many coaches he had, that was a real treat. I've been very fortunate. I played with somebody very special in Mike Singletary, and now to watch a guy that I had a chance to coach get in [to the Hall of Fame], that's really cool."

On why Rivera wanted to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony:

"I missed four of my teammates. I missed [Walter] Payton. I missed [Richard] Dent. I missed Singletary. And I missed [Dan Hampton]. When the opportunity to come and pay tribute to Brian and his career, I made sure I did it."

On Urlacher's legacy:

"He was a tremendous football player, a tremendous athlete and a good person."

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Greg Blache

Former Bears defensive coordinator (1999-2003)

On coaching Urlacher:

"It was one of the finest experiences of my coaching career. The guy was just a great teammate. He was a great player. He was a great person. He was never impressed with himself. He always wanted to get better. That's a coach's dream. You've got a guy you can trust. You've got a guy that's going to be accountable, that was always going to be there for you, and would always uplift the people around him. What more can you ask for as a football coach, a guy with that kind of ability to have those intangibles to go along with that phenomenal ability?"

On his first impressions of Urlacher:

"I was amazed that a guy that big could run that fast and was that athletic. It wasn't common back at that time to find guys that big that could do all the things that he could do. Sometimes you read the scouts' reports, they like this guy, but let me see for myself, and we sat down and we watched him as a staff and we all just kind of looked at each other and said, 'Yeah, if this guy's there [in the draft], we want this guy.'"

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Greg Olsen

Former Bears tight end (2007-10)

On having Urlacher as a teammate:

"Brian had such an impact on my career. You just can't say enough about the teammate that he was and the friend that he was. I felt it was important to be here to support him on this day. He's had as big an impact on my career as anybody I've ever played with, so it meant a lot to be here and catch up with him and enjoy the day."

On why Urlacher had such a big impact on him:

"I just remember he kind of took me under his wing. He kind of showed me what it was like to be a professional. We spent a lot of time together on and off the field, away from the building, in the building. I can't say enough about what an impact he's made on my career and just showing me at an early age what it meant to be a professional and what it meant to prepare to play at a high level, and nobody did it as well as he did."

On his first impressions of Urlacher:

"I remember meeting him for the first time in the weight room and you're kind of in awe. He's a guy that you've seen play for a long time and to now be his teammate and kind of be able to learn from him was just such an awesome opportunity."

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