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Urlacher rubs shoulders with NFL legends

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CANTON, Ohio – Brian Urlacher got a little taste of the exclusive club he's about to join when he posed for a photo and attended a luncheon Friday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The former Bears star middle linebacker and the rest of the Class of 2018 that will be inducted Saturday night in Canton were joined by more than 130 members of the Hall of Fame, most of them wearing their gold jackets. They posed for a group photo on the front steps of the Hall and then gathered in a nearby tent for lunch.

"It's rare air to be in front of all these people," said Urlacher, who will become the 28th member of the Bears organization enshrined in Canton, the most of any NFL team. "There are so many great players, it's unbelievable."

Urlacher enjoyed interacting with some of the best football players of all time.

"To hear some of those men talk and tell some stories about each other and what they've been through before the Hall of Fame and while they're in the Hall of Fame, I just sat back and listened," Urlacher said. "I was trying to take it all in. Joe Namath stood up and said some things. Jim Kelly spoke. Never would have imagined I would be in that room.

"Anytime someone opens their mouth, I am glued to them because I want to hear what they have to say. I want to hear all their stories. You watch the inductions, but you can't get in all in there. So just to hear the stories, I mean Joe Namath is a stud. When he talks, people turn around and listen. Jim Kelly, I was a huge fan of his when he played, to hear his story of what he is going through. Chris Doleman. There are so many guys. Michael Irvin had some great things to say this morning. All of them. I could go on and on if you wanted me to."

Selected by the Bears with the ninth pick in the 2000 draft out of New Mexico, Urlacher played all 13 of his illustrious NFL seasons in Chicago. He was voted to eight Pro Bowls, was a four-time first-team All-Pro, was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 and was selected NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.

Former Bears star defensive end Richard Dent was among the Hall of Famers who attended Friday's festivities in Canton.

"It's a done deal. He's here forever," Dent said of Urlacher. "He gets a chance to tell his story that his kids can appreciate, his grandkids, everyone can appreciate it the rest of their lives. It's a privilege to have a gold jacket. It's a privilege to be here with so many great guys."

Dent was chosen by the Bears in the eighth round of the 1983 draft. He played 12 of his 15 NFL seasons with the Bears, setting the club's all-time record with 124.5 sacks. The Tennessee State product was named Super Bowl XX MVP, was an integral part of a championship defense that is considered one of the best in NFL history and was voted to four Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Dent is happy to be part of a Bears legacy that dates back to the origins of pro football itself.

"It's where the game started," Dent said. "I remember when I first came to Chicago, all I knew was Walter Payton. But then you start looking at the history, you look at Mr. [George] Halas, where the game started. To play in a town like Chicago, where football started, you can't find a better place."

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