The Pro Football Hall of Fame will formally welcome its Class of 2018 on Saturday. This week, Yahoo Sports is highlighting memorable moments for each member of the eight-man class, leading up to the big ceremony.
Brian Urlacher, 2000-2012
Urlacher spent his youth in New Mexico, where he developed an affinity for not only football and basketball, but track and pingpong. There, he played as a running back, wide receiver, and defensive back. His dream as a senior in 1996 – whose school later named a holiday after him – was to play football for Texas Tech University, but they didn’t offer him a scholarship.
Instead, he played at the University of New Mexico, where he was converted to a linebacker. He saw little playing time in his first two seasons, but after a coaching change, he went on to become an integral part of the team, graduating in 2000.
He was taken by the Chicago Bears ninth overall in the 2000 draft, and six years later, he dropped his signature performance. It was Oct. 16, 2006. It was “Monday Night Football,” the first in Arizona in seven years. A victory would keep a season undefeated for the Bears.
Chicago was down 20-0 against the Cardinals heading into the fourth quarter.
For much of the first five weeks of the season, the Bears’ offense rolled. But on that night, quarterback Rex Grossman was intercepted twice and lost two fumbles through the first two quarters; he was picked off twice more in the third.
The whole night, the offense had made only nine first downs, and picked up 168 total yards. Chicago’s fortunes hinged on the defense.
With two minutes left in the third quarter and the Bears still down 23-3, ESPN’s Joe Theismann said on the broadcast: “You just run out of time if your defense can’t create opportunities for you. And that’s something the Bears defense has not done for their offense.”
But then, rookie defensive end Mark Anderson, in his first start, sacked rookie Matt Leinhart, who fumbled on the 3-yard line. Mike Brown ran it in for a touchdown, then came the extra point. Two like that and they’d have the lead.
It was Urlacher’s turn.
With about five minutes left in the game Urlacher stripped running back Edgerrin James, and Charles Tillman took it for a 40-yard touchdown, making it a 23-17 game.
Devin Hester delivered an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown and the extra point gave the Bears a 24-23 lead with 2:58 remaining. Naturally, the defense held. Upon review Urlacher had quietly “created opportunity” for his offense by racking up 25 tackles – a record that still stands.
“I remember Brian being in on virtually every play,” Bears center Olin Kruetz told the Chicago Tribune on the game’s 10-year anniversary. “There he is. There he is. There he is again. Every. Single. Time. Brian was making a tackle. He was flying all over the place.”
But that was Brian Urlacher. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound man who flew.
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