Brian Urlacher Enshrinement speech
I gotta breathe. I gotta try and breathe. Bullet Bob, wherever you're going ‑‑ right there, okay, I didn't see you ‑‑ I want you to know: You're both like a father to me and a brother. You're my favorite coach of all time. You not only made me a better football player, but a better man.
You and your wife, Nancy, are impeccable role models for me, and I strive to be as good a parent to my children as you and Nancy are to yours. Thanks, Bullet.
Now, congratulations to my fellow 2018 Hall of Fame inductees. This is such a huge honor for me. I never could have imagined that I would be standing here tonight, linked forever with these great men, these great players, football players I played against and I watched in awe. Astonishing.
However, today is not merely about me or what I was able do on the football field. I'm primarily here tonight to pay respect to the men and women who have made this all possible and to honor them for the impact they've had on my life.
I love everything about football ‑‑ the friendships, the coaches, the teammates, the teachers, the challenges, the opportunity to excel as a teammate and as a leader.
Football has provided me with virtually everything I have in life. It has provided for my children and my family. Not yet, huh‑uh.
The values, discipline, and respect for others taught me by my mother is reinforced in football. Most importantly, at every level of the game, it was flat‑out fun for me.
I loved going to work every day for 13 years. Two pillars of my life are family and football. Football, integrated with my love of family, has allowed me to fulfill my vision in life: To do and be my very best, to the best of my ability, at all times.
It also seemed to me that when I was ‑‑ my personal life was good, I played at a much higher level as well. More settled. As I think about it, one of the best parts of the game was all the pre‑snap checking, the banter, the communication that constantly took place even before the ball was snapped.
The quarterback would call an audible; we would try and change the defense to get in the right defense. Usually we weren't. But it was just a constant cat‑and‑mouse game to see who would end up in the right place at the right time.
Then, at the end of 2012, I retired. Just like that, all the people in my life associated with the Bears were gone. One of the things I immediately missed the most was eating lunch in Dean Pope's office. Dean was one of our video techs, and every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we would kick him out of his office and eat lunch together.
"We" being Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, Patrick Mannelly, myself, and, every once in a while, Brad Maynard would sneak in there to get some verbal abuse. We never talked football. We talked trash. It was a fun 10 to 15 minutes, and then we'd go get ready for practice.
My favorite day, though, was Thursday. That was Oreo doughnut balls day. Or, as I like to say, white balls. And, of course, Lance would say black balls. Anyway, once again, football, going to work, it was fun for me.
I was born in Pasco, Washington. My parents divorced when I was ‑‑ yeah, Pasco, yeah, they're here. I was born, obviously, there, like I just said. My parents divorced when I was seven, and my mother moved us to Lovington, New Mexico, with my brother, my sister, to be close to her parents. This was when my late mother, Lavoyda Lynne Lenard, became my real‑life hero.
Of course, I had my football heroes that I wanted to emulate and who inspired me, but my mother embodied the truth: A champion does it differently.
When we first moved to Lovington, we had nothing. No, that's not true. We had each other. But when we first moved there, my mom didn't have a job. Not to worry, though. My mother was the hardest‑working person I've ever known. She always found a way to provide for the three of us, even if that meant working three jobs at a time, from cleaning houses to being a grocery store clerk. She was never too proud to take a job if it meant she would be able to provide for us.
Even working seven days a week, not once did she miss a practice, miss a game, or any school function. She was always there for us, and she made sure we knew that she was at all of our games.
And we knew she was there because she was the loudest person screaming in the crowd. Sometimes embarrassingly so. Most of the time, actually.
This was her way of letting us know she was rooting for us. Shoot, I've been retired for five years. I got three kids, and it's hard to make it to all their activities. But my mother, she did it all the time. She epitomized unconditional love, but she also epitomized unconditional discipline. We knew the consequences if we misbehaved.
In that regard, I believe there's a misconception that I grew up with privilege or I had it easy. Quite the opposite, actually. I began working when I was 12 years old, pushing my lawnmower around town mowing yards. I later on worked in the oil fields of Lovington. When I went off to college, a lumberyard an Albuquerque. My mother definitely taught me the importance of learning my way.
Mother, thank you. If it wasn't for you, I definitely wouldn't be here today.
Fortunately, fortunately for my mother and the three of us, when I was 12 she met the man I consider to be my real dad, Troy Lenard. If my mother wasn't a good enough example of an exemplary work ethic, now I had another one in my stepfather.
My dad went to work every day at 5:30 a.m. in the oil fields of Lovington. Not once did he complain. My dad's here tonight. Troy?
Troy, you're not only my father ‑‑ you're not only my stepfather, you're my father. Thank You, Dad, for helping a young boy who needed direction and a role model for coming into our lives when you did. All right.
I learned to love football from watching my football heroes on TV, particularly the Cowboys' Darren Woodson, who's a big safety, and I thought I was, too. He should be in the Hall of Fame and sitting up here with us, I believe. Anyway, he's not.
I love the way he smashed people, the way he played, how he handled himself on and off the field, and I wanted to be just like him. Playing in my neighborhood, I didn't like getting hit, but I damn sure liked hitting people. That's why I stuck to defense.
As I begin to share my football journey, there are so many people I must thank, so many coaches, teammates, and friends that have profoundly impacted my life, but time does not allow me to properly honor you. But I will talk about these couple of teammates that I had real quick.
Sorry. Mike Brown and I were drafted in the same class. He is the smartest football player I've ever been on the field with. Even smarter than I am, and I hate saying that.
When he was in the game, it took a lot of pressure off myself. He communicated with the defense with his little squeaky‑ass voice: Hey, Lach! Lookit over here! Watch out! I miss that voice. When he wasn't on the field, it hurt me and it hurt our defense.
I played alongside this beast for ten years. He made me a better player because, if I didn't play well, he'd make all the plays and I'd just be a guy out there. He elevated not only my game but the entire defense. His enthusiasm and excitement was contagious. We're back here in a couple years for your induction, Big Time.
Charles "Peanut" Tillman.
I had a front‑row seat for ten years watching this guy piss people off by making them fumble, when all they worked on all week was not fumbling. He had a talent that I don't believe will ever be duplicated, who was also a great cover guy who would come up and hit your ass if he needed to.
Alex Brown. Alex has one of the most contagious laughs I've ever heard. It rivals my mother's. He is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet, and it helped that he was a hell of a football player as well.
I only played with this guy for three years, but Dusty Dvoracek impacted me greatly. Even as a rookie, he stepped in and took control of the huddle and he held people accountable.
If he saw something he didn't like, he'd shout: Shut the blank‑blank up and listen. And as a rookie, that's pretty tough to do, but he did it. He set the tone for our defense.
The toughest person I have ever met and one of the hardest‑working people as well. No doubt he was our team leader. OGK played his heart out. Injuries did not matter. He played through them. Olin was the best center in the league, and he made me a better player and competitor. We all looked up to you, Olin. All right.
Coaches constituted the bedrock of my existence for nearly three decades. They taught me about discipline, hard work, teamwork, and were there to challenge me to become a better man and a better player, in that order. I am so very grateful that you've not only demanded I be the best player I could be but actually showed me how.
To all my friends who I've known throughout my life, who supported me when I was down, who cheered for me when I was up, who loved me for just being me, time does not allow me time to do you justice, but please know where you all live in my heart.
To the Chicago Bears, the charter franchise in National Football League history.
First, I must acknowledge the fans. I never got a chance to say goodbye. The best fans in the world.
Even when we stunk, they'd sit in their seats at Soldier Field freezing their butts off. Every time. And in case you didn't know, our fans love defense.
The most coveted position in pro football for a defensive player is to play middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears. Just think about it. The history of this position is unmatched by any other team ‑‑ Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary, and now ‑‑ I can barely say it ‑‑ me.
I hope over my 13 seasons I made all of you Bears fans proud. Becoming a Bear was like playing for family. And to play my entire career with one team was a testament to the tradition of the Chicago Bears. I know this was due to our founding father, George Halas.
Thank You, Virginia Halas McCaskey and George McCaskey, for continuing that legacy. Thank you, George, for always treating us with respect and dignity. Thanks also to loaning us Conor, your son, for four years of training camp. He was a good ball boy for our linebacker drills.
Before continuing, again, time does not allow for me to respectfully acknowledge each and every one of my lifelong friends, teammates, and coaches in attendance tonight. But you know who you are. Would all of you please stand and be acknowledged. Teammates, friends, coaches, everybody, please stand and be acknowledged. All of you.
Now, on to my family. My wife, Jennipher.
She is my rock, my voice of reason when I need some reason or a lot of help finding some reason. We started dating in 2009. I told her on our second date that I was going to marry her. She looked at me like I was crazy.
She has been by my side for two of the worst things that happened in my life. Five months after we started dating, the first game of the season, dislocated my wrist against Green Bay and I missed the entire season. The most horrific event, my mother's passing in 2011.
Both times were incredibly hard for me, and she was there for me, no questions asked. She was definitely a member of Team Urlacher and really just one of the guys. She doesn't look like it, but she is one of the guys.
She has helped me become a much better man and parent to our three children. She's a wonderful stepmother to our children as well.
I'm not sure I could have put up with someone's stupidity as long as she's put up with mine. She is so patient and understanding with me, even when I don't deserve it.
She is one of the most organized people I know, and sometimes annoyingly organized. If it wasn't for her, this weekend would not have gone as smoothly as it has. I love you, babe. Thank you for being a part of my life.
To my children ‑‑ Pamela, Riley, and Kennedy. What I love about them all is how different they are. It makes it fun for us. All three of them have been through a lot. They're strong kids and have amazing character.
They teach me patience. That's for sure. They are each unique, independent, and principled. They don't allow others to have negative influence over them. That says a lot about who they are.
Pamela is my oldest daughter. Pamela Brooke. You're one of the smartest and strongest people I know.
Oh, gosh. I'm not gonna do it.
You're one of the strongest and smartest people I know. You're a global traveler and a straight‑A Honors student as well. You're a rare gift and a best friend to anyone who knows you. Your drive to be your best and to be successful inspires me and makes me truly proud to be your father.
Riley Urlacher, Riley Brynn. You are different from any teenage girl I've ever met. For six years you wore a hat backwards every day. Even though you were teased for it daily, you never let it bother you. You march to the beat of your own drum. You're still a tomboy, and as with Pamela you two are wise beyond your years.
One of my greatest joys is watching you play basketball. You are our family magnet. People are drawn to you. And you are the most lit person that I know. I love you, Riley.
Kennedy, my son. Kennedy, you're a tremendous athlete, a hooper, a football player, and you also care about school just as much as those sports. You have such a caring heart and often put others' needs before your own.
In the last year and a half, it's been amazing to watch you mature. Your work ethic has gotten better, and I've seen you grow as a young man, becoming a very respectful human being. I am so humbled and proud and honored to be your father. Love you, son.
To my Urlacher family from Washington. A lot of them are in attendance tonight. Thank you for always letting me know I can count on you guys if I need anything, if I needed anything at all.
Jarron, especially you. Jarron is my brother. Growing up, we weren't as close as we wanted to be, but we damn sure are now.
Brad Urlacher is my birth father. He passed away in 2004 during my fifth year at training camp. We were not close, but I still loved him. He wasn't around much once we moved to New Mexico. Whatever his reasons were, it didn't matter to me. I know as parents sometimes we have to make difficult decisions, and I forgave him. Just as my mother would have wanted me to.
My brother Casey. He and I are 15 months apart and growing up we fought like it. At everything. We fought. We competed. We competed at everything. He definitely inspired my competitive juices and got them flowing. As we got older, we didn't always see eye to eye, but I guess that's just what happens sometimes when you’re brothers.
My big sister, Sheri. She and I are 12 months apart. She used to beat up on my brother and me daily when we were kids, every day, because she was always bigger than we were. But we caught up, eventually, and I know I'm a tougher person because she always picked on us.
When I was told I was being invited to join this distinguished group of men, I immediately recognized this would be one of the greatest honors I'd ever receive. This is my legacy moment, and I have thought long and hard about what I want to say right now.
Here it is: As a player, I just want to be remembered as a good teammate. That's it. I want to be remembered as a guy who would do anything for his teammates, always go above and beyond for you.
To the guys who played with me and the guys who played against me, just know how much I respected the game. I feel like I played it the right way. I had fun when I was out there. I respected opponents as well as my teammates and coaches.
I may be one of the most competitive people you'll ever know. I want to win every snap, every game, even though it’s not possible. But I didn't just compete to beat the other person; I competed to be my best. It wasn't merely about the conquest; it was about the challenge. Every moment. Every practice. Every game. Everywhere. I just loved competing. Competition is in my DNA.
At the beginning of my speech, I spoke about the two pillars of my life: family and football. Everyone that I have spoken about tonight is family. The men I played with are my brothers. The men who coached me are my fathers. Trust me when I tell you: It is family.
It makes me very uncomfortable speaking about myself and what I've accomplished on the football field. After games, I never want to talk about what I did. I want to talk about what Lance did, what Charles did. I always thought I could have done better. Wins and losses, they're the same to me. I always could have played better in my mind, didn't matter what the outcome was.
Now here I am, 40 years of age. From this unique vantage point, I'm able to look back and also look ahead as I embark upon the next leg of my journey.
Football has opened so many doors for me and not only benefited me but others as well. I was a football player. That was my job. But that's not who I am. I'm a husband, a father, a friend, a provider, and a role model for a lot of children, which I try to embrace as much as I can.
But my most important legacy is sitting right here in front of me ‑‑ Pamela, Riley, and Kennedy.
Football did not define me, but it clearly has helped me be a better man. Its core values aren't simple football values. They are life values. In applying what I learned in football to the rest of my life, I have discovered we all win. For someone as competitive as I am, that victory means everything to me. Thank you all.