Rivalry is a funny thing in sports. As fans, it can make you feel borderline hatred for a particular team or player. It can make one or two games, every year, feel like a Super Bowl in and of itself. The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers have the NFL’s oldest rivalry and, over the last two decades, it has seen its fair share of Hall of Fame type players. Saturday night, former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher was voted a first ballot Hall of Famer and plenty of people were there to congratulate him. In attendance were many old teammates and foes, including one who will never forget playing against him.
Adam Hoge, an insider for WGN, was able to catch up with a couple of familiar faces to Bears fans — the first being one whom has haunted their memories for the last decade or so. Current Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was in attendance and was kind enough to give Hoge a few words regarding his old nemesis.
“I think he’s the smartest player that I’ve ever played against. No one played the position like he did… with the freedom to check in and out of coverages and then, obviously the talent is second to none,” Rodgers said. “A guy that big, that fast, that athletic and with those instincts… I said it last year about T.O. I think T.O. is one of the greatest receivers, should definitely have been a first ballot Hall of Famer, he should get in tonight. Brian should be a first ballot Hall of Famer as well.”
Hoge also caught up with one of Urlacher’s most notable teammates during those elite defensive years, Charles Tillman, about what he meant to the organization.
“You know what, for me to be here, for him to get it, I think it’d be pretty awesome,” said Tillman. “You know, I think his résumé speaks for itself. His 13-year career was amazing. What he was able to do… he’s not just a guy who can tackle. He can hit. He had picks. He had sacks, and, football IQ… I think that’s kind of what sets him apart from everyone else.
“He was the leader. He was the cornerstone. He was the rock. He was like that point guard. He set the tone. He set the pace for everybody. He was that big brother that you didn’t want to let down. Plenty of times I let him down by giving up a touchdown or possibly missing a tackle or two, missing an assignment… when he comes down and he’s screaming and yelling at you, you feel it.”
Lastly, former Bears and current Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen gave Hoge some insight on Urlacher and who he was as a person, prior to the announcement.
“I think the best thing I can say about Brian is, he treated everybody in that organization from the star quarterback all the way down to the ticket guy, the exact same,” Olsen said of Urlacher. “He made everybody feel important. He made everybody feel special. He was the ultimate leader. I can’t say enough about what he did for me personally and so many other guys, so I’m pulling for him.”
Olsen, along with Tillman and a few other former teammates, would of course go on to experience Urlacher’s name being called among those voted into the class of 2018. Urlacher joined fellow players Ray Lewis, Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Brian Dawkins in what will end up being a class to remember.