by Mike Magers
Brian was born in Pasco, Washington but moved with his mother to the unlikely location of Lovington, New Mexico where his maternal grandparents lived, after a family separation. His mother supported Brian and his two siblings by often working several jobs at a time, becoming quite a respected and beloved person in town. In Lovington, Urlacher developed his natural affinity for sports, focusing on basketball and football. He graduated in 1996 and his last three years in high school, the Wildcats went 9-3, 11-4 and 14-0, winning the State Championship in 1995 under Head Coach John T. “Speedy” Faith. Coach Faith sent film of his highlights to Texas Tech, where Brian had wanted to play, but Tech never responded with a scholarship offer, so Brian accepted an offer to play for University of New Mexico.
While at University of New Mexico he mostly played defense, but also lined up as a wide receiver, more often in his 1999 season. He played under coach Dennis Franchione until Franchione moved on to TCU. Then, Urlacher played under Coach Rocky Long and he became a defensive standout. Long is said to have created a position he called the “Lobo” which allowed the defender to roam in the backfield, and it suited Brian’s talents extremely well. At UNM, Brian added to the team’s individual season and career record books as follows: 1999 season scoring co-leader with 7 touchdowns and 42 points, 1999 season most punt returns with 10 carries for 158, 1998 set standing season record with 178 tackles at free safety, notching sixth place on the same record in 1999 with 154, 1996-1999 ranked fourth in career tackles at 442 at both linebacker and free safety. He also ranked high in other categories. Brian was named an All-American in 1998 and a Consensus All-American in 1999. He was named the MVP of the Mountain West Conference in 1999. Along with several other UNM team honors, he was named the MVP of his Lobo squads in the back to back seasons of 1998 and 1999. His college number 44 was retired at UNM, which made him one of only four such players, including the NFL’s Don Perkins.
Brian was the 9th overall player selected in the 2000 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears as their first round pick, UNM’s only first rounder since Robin Cole was chosen in 1977. Urlacher went on to have a successful 13 year career as a defensive force for the Bears, starting all but 2 of his 182 games. In his career, he is credited with snagging 22 interceptions, 2 of which returned for touchdowns, recovering 15 fumbles, again 2 of which were advanced for touchdowns, making 41 and 1/2 sacks, 1,040 tackles and 314 assists. He was always known for his intensity and is favorably compared with other such strong players and Mike Singletary and Dick Butkus.
Urlacher is one of 6 Chicago Bears to be among the 75 former players listed on the National Football Foundation’s 2017 ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame, the honorees for which will be announced next month on January 6, 2017. In the NFL, his honors include being named 8 times to the Pro Bowl. He was a first team All Pro selection 4 times and second team selection another time. He was named NFL player of the week 7 times. Other honors included being named to the New Mexico Sports Hall of Fame in its 2012 class. One would think that the NFL Hall of Fame is also a likely possibility.
In Lovington, there is now a street named in Urlacher’s honor. He was instrumental in the high school getting its trademark blue turf on its 1960s era football field and also an indoor workout facility. Brian has maintained close ties to his friends from high school, college and the Bears. Since his retirement from the NFL, Brian has been involved in numerous charitable events benefiting Lovington High School, the University of New Mexico and various other charitable causes.