Brian Urlacher, one of the greatest middle linebackers of all time, is a Hall of Fame finalist in his first year of eligibility. It just so happens that Ray Lewis, arguably the greatest middle linebacker ever, is eligible this year as well.
That is no reason for Urlacher to be denied the proper recognition he deserves.
Past Hall of Fame classes rarely include two players of the same position and there are rumblings that this pattern will hold true and Urlacher will be overshadowed by Lewis. The thought that one deserving candidate should be denied due to the year he retired in relation to his peers is nonsensical. This “old-fashioned” way of thinking is contradictory of what the Hall of Fame stands for and would be a disservice to the sport if it were to continue.
Hall of Fame inductees, especially those who get in on the first ballot, are generation-defining players.
This is certainly true of both Lewis and Urlacher.
The fact that both are linebackers, specifically middle linebackers, should be irrelevant to their deservedness in the eyes of the voters. Each possessed a unique skill set that revolutionized the way middle linebackers played the game.
There was Lewis, the blitzing, run-stuffing, downfield attacker who instilled fear in his opponents; and then there was Urlacher, the phenom athlete who had unmatched closing speed, could cover sideline to sideline, who was capable of reading an offense and shutting down the passing game in the middle of the field.
Each one played the position differently, and both of them were widely regarded as being the best at what they did.
Urlacher finished his college career at New Mexico as an All-American as a safety. His rare combination of size and athleticism made him an appealing NFL draft prospect, and the Bears jumped on the opportunity.
The first half of his rookie season was spent playing outside linebacker and the results were mixed. The move was made to middle linebacker, and the results were undeniable, as the league had never seen such athleticism at the position.
The ninth-overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft, Urlacher quickly established himself as the heart and soul of the reemerging Bears’ defense. Urlacher and the Bears made it all the way to an appearance in Super Bowl XLI behind the play of their defense led by the elite play of their middle linebacker.
Each week, opposing teams had to gameplan around the 6-foot-4 superstar who was the leader of the modern age “Monsters of the Midway” Bears’ defense.
One of those familiar opponents, and a future Hall of Famer in his own right, is on the record supporting Urlacher’s bid for immortality.
To me, it shouldn’t be a difficult decision for those voters to put him in the first opportunity they can.” – Aaron Rodgers
Urlacher’s credentials certainly speak for themselves.
The eight-time NFL Pro Bowler and 2005 Defensive Player of the Year should be an obvious choice for voters. The committee needs to rethink their flawed history of voting in this manner and do what is right.
The best, most deserving players should be voted in regardless of their peers, and there should be a bald-headed bust of the great No. 54 in Canton this year.