After Brian Urlacher was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday in his first year of eligibility, I reached out to some of his former Bears teammates for their reactions. Here's what they had to say:
"If he didn't [get voted in this year], that would have been a travesty. He was one of the great all-time teammates and great all-time friends. It's well-deserved. As a player, he knew everything. He knew the play before it happened. He was one of those people that you never really wanted to let down. And as a person, he treated the janitor the same way he treated the general manager. He treated everybody with respect. He has a huge heart and is just an all-around good dude."
"He is where he is supposed to be. He's supposed to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He deserves that jacket as much as anyone who's on that stage. He is definitely worthy of that jacket. As a player, he was a student of the game and he understood what everybody had to do. That made him a better player and he made everybody around him a better player. As a person, he's a great father, he's a great man and he's a humble man, and that to me is something that people can appreciate."
"This just validates what we saw on a day-to-day basis. He was absolutely phenomenal. He was a phenomenal athlete, physically and mentally. He knew exactly what to do all the time and then he had the physical skills to do it. Shoot, every Thursday when we weighed in he was bigger than me. Just watching a guy like that run and cover running backs out of the backfield, get 30 yards down the middle of the field and pick off a Drew Brees pass or an Aaron Rodgers pass, it was crazy. It was insane to watch. He's definitely deserving of the Hall of Fame. But being a first ballot Hall of Famer, I think Olin Kreutz said it best: Only one percent of football players ever make it to the NFL. Then one percent of them make it to the Hall of Fame. And then only one percent of them get to be first ballot Hall of Famers. So that says a lot. I think he's the best defensive player the Bears ever had. And the crazy thing is that he's a better guy than he is a football player. He's very genuine, one of those 'if he has it, you've got it' type of guys. If you needed him, he was there. He is a great guy, great player and I think this was well-deserved."
Take a look back at the 13-year career of Bears great and NFL Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher from his first day with the team to his final year.
"It was kind of a no-brainer. I don't know who would not vote for him. He deserved it. He's one of the guys who changed the game. One of my greatest memories is when I first met him, realizing that he was not this pretentious Hollywood type. He was just a regular dude and it was so easy to talk to him and be a teammate of his. He was just so respectful to everybody."
"I'm extremely happy for him. There's no one more deserving of that accolade. In my opinion, he truly represents what the league is all about. He was the leader of not only our defense but of the team and the franchise. He propelled us to a higher standard not necessarily with words but how he conducted himself. He was a key to our success and we had a lot of fun."
"All of his former teammates are super proud and excited to say that we were a teammate of his. I've been texting back and forth with Brad Maynard, Olin Kreutz, numerous guys, just about how excited we are for him. We got a chance to see the piece on ChicagoBears.com when the knock on his door came. To see that pure joy on his face was awesome. I think all of us teammates felt that for him and with him. It was really cool. As a player, he was the best ever. As a person, he was the best teammate you could ever ask for. He set the tone for our locker room. He was so humble as a superstar."
"I knew he was going to make the first ballot. I'm just excited and I'm so happy for him. It couldn't happen to a better player and a better person. He deserves it. He was an athletic guy. He laid everything on the line for his teammates. He gave everything to his teammates. My first car in the NFL was Urlacher's Tahoe. He gave me such a good deal on it because I needed a car. So my first car in the NFL was Brian Urlacher's hand-me-down Tahoe. It was awesome."
"They got it right. It was such an honor for me to be there and witness [his career] in person. He was a shoo-in. It was an easy decision for them. How could you not put him in? Brian Urlacher was the general of our defense and it was such an honor and a privilege for me to be a part of his greatness and for me to witness it. I had the best seat in the house. The one game that stands out to me was the Arizona game [in 2006]. He just took over. Brian did it all—tackles, interceptions, touchdowns, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries. And he's a good dude. For Brian to have all the fame and be the face of the team and the franchise player, you wouldn't know it because he didn't treat you that way. He was the center of attention, but he made you feel like you were the center of attention. That's what I really appreciated about him and that's one of the first things I noticed about him."
"I'm so excited. I'm overjoyed for him to be able to be recognized in this way, to be the best of the best, the one percent of the one percent guys. It's a great day for the Bears and a great day for Brian and his family. I'm so excited to have had the opportunity to have played and shared the field with him. Brian was definitely the leader of our defense and the leader of our team. Coming in as a draft pick in 2004, I already knew what I was getting into and the high standards that he set for everybody. It didn't matter if you were a rookie or a veteran guy, everybody had to be accountable and it made all of us much better players. To see the way he prepared, the way that he was a great teammate on and off the field, was an amazing experience."