Skip to main content
Website header - Chicago
Advertising | The Official Website of the Chicago Bears

Urlacher wowed Bears scout from first meeting on

Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher
Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher

The Bears drafted Hall of Fame middle linebacker Brian Urlacher in 2000 with the same No. 9 pick in the first round that they have this year.

Before joining forces in Chicago, former Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache had some major doubts the first time he read a scouting report on Urlacher. Feeling like he was trying to be convinced that the Loch Ness Monster existed, Blache watched film of Urlacher to see for himself.

What the tape revealed was a 6-4, 258-pounder with speed, power and agility who was timed at 4.59 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and had a 34-inch vertical jump.

"When they first told me about him, I thought they were joking," Blache said shortly after Urlacher was drafted. "Sometimes scouts get a little carried away with what they see. But watching the guy on film, he's very impressive. As big a man as he is, he can really run. He's got exceptional speed for a linebacker."

The report that Blache initially read no doubt was written by John Paul Young, who served as the Bears' southwest area scout at the time. Young spent 12 seasons as an NFL defensive assistant, including eight years as a linebackers coach under head coach Bum Phillips with the Houston Oilers (1978-80) and New Orleans Saints (1981-85).

Young told this week that he came out of retirement to join the Bears as a scout, in part because "I was bored to tears." He was hired by then-vice president of personnel Mark Hatley, a former linebacker that Young had coached at Oklahoma State and later coached with on Phillips' staff in New Orleans.

Young recalled that Hatley sent him to the University of New Mexico for a spring practice to scout Urlacher.

"They had him playing free safety," Young said. "He'd come from the weakside, pass the weak linebacker, the middle linebacker and the strong linebacker and make the play on the line of scrimmage on the other side. I thought, 'Goodness gracious, this guy's got a nose for the ball.' I told Mark, 'I'm not big on projecting kids, but we need to look at this kid as a linebacker.'"

Urlacher's measurables were off the charts, but Young was just as impressed with his football IQ.

"He could not only see that they were faking [a run]," Young said, "but he could see that the backside linemen weren't run-blocking, they were pass-blocking, so he'd play pass."

The Bears entered the 2000 draft targeting Urlacher, running back Thomas Jones and receiver Plaxico Burress at No. 9. When Jones was selected by the Cardinals at No. 7 and the Steelers followed by picking Burress at No. 8, the Bears had an easy decision.

"Fate seemed to work in this direction," then-Bears head coach Dick Jauron said at the time. "To have this linebacker come to this franchise in this city, I think it was a great thing for us."

The Bears envisioned Urlacher as an incredibly fast and tough-as-nails playmaker who would make a smooth transition to the linebacker position.

"If you go out and watch the kid practice, a kid of that size with that much speed and that much ability to change direction, you get pretty excited about him as soon as you see him," Hatley said at the time. "You turn on the lights and sideline-to-sideline he sure makes a lot of plays. And he'll make some big hits."

That, of course, turned out to be a pretty accurate description of Urlacher, who became the face of the Bears franchise for more than a decade during an illustrious career in Chicago that culminated in his Hall of Fame induction in 2018.

Urlacher was voted to eight Pro Bowls and selected to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s. He was named NFL rookie of the year in 2000 and NFL defensive player of the year in 2005. He helped the Bears win four division championships and one conference title, advancing to Super Bowl XLI.

"I thought he was going to be good, but I didn't know he was going to be as good [as he became]," Young said. "I thought he had the potential of being that good, but you never know."