I remember seeing Brian Urlacher begin his career in 2000. I was 13 years old. This bald guy with a strange name was collecting sacks and interceptions against the Detroit Lions, flying around the field with reckless abandon. I was scared just watching from home, never mind suiting up.
Little did I know I'd be witnessing a reoccurring theme which I'd watch through high school, throughout college and well into my late 20's. From then until now, Urlacher never stopped impacting the game. It must have been what people felt years ago watching Dick Butkus' start in the Windy City. This longevity and constant impact are the two biggest reasons I'll miss Urlacher on the field and sidelines.
They're also the reasons both Lions' fans and myself won't miss Urlacher, which represents the ultimate compliment to him as a player. For years, Urlacher was everything Detroit didn't have. He represented power, passion and consistent big name defensive talent. From 2000-2012, we were jealous. Who was the Lions premiere answer at linebacker or on defense then? Chris Claiborne? Boss Bailey? Dre Bly?
The correct answer: nobody. For that entire time period, Urlacher was the NFC North personified. Though Jared Allen, Clay Matthews and Ndamukong Suh would come along later trying to act as tough guy bully types, there was always someone on Chicago's sideline quietly more intimidating, willing to cleanly lay players out and quickly let them know about it immediately.
As such, over his lengthy career, Urlacher did have his run-ins with the Lions. Most notably, he went toe to toe in a hilarious verbal war with Roy Williams, who most Detroit fans would agree sounded like a fool whenever he opened his mouth. That Urlacher, an on-field bully, cared to kick the Lions when they were down in the media infuriated fans. Never, though, should they have gotten the feeling that Urlacher didn't respect the game or his opponent. He did.
Urlacher's retirement will leave a huge void on the Bears' defense. Chicago will still possess game changers like Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers, but they'll miss Urlacher's steady leadership everyday in practice and every Sunday afternoon. They'll also miss the intimidation factor of having a bald, hulking linebacker with a tough name in the middle of the field. It took the Bears eight full years to capably replace Butkus with Mike Singletary. Will Chicago find another Urlacher sooner than that? Lions' rooters certainly hope not.
Until they do, we'll look forward to the first Sunday without Urlacher in the fold to see what his team looks like without their heart and soul. With much respect, we won't miss Urlacher at all, but deep down inside, we'll always appreciate his contribution to the NFC North's football legacy.
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