Former Bear Brian Urlacher should be first-ballot Hall of Famer

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Brian Urlacher is a Hall of Famer in every sense of the word.

Urlacher -- one of 11 first-year eligible players nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- is a no-brainer for enshrinement in Canton.

And he should make it on the first ballot.

Former Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis – also a first-year eligible player – is a lock. In fact, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said if anyone doesn't vote for Lewis on the first ballot, then they have an agenda.

Lewis' name appearing on the ballot should have no bearing on Urlacher's chances of getting in. Lewis and Urlacher were among the greatest players of their generation. Let them both in.

The presence of Moss, however, could complicate it, as it might be difficult for three first-year guys to make it in.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee can let in a maximum of five modern-day candidates each year. The Hall of Fame requires 80 percent approval for enshrinement.

For those purely obsessed with statics, Urlacher’s numbers speak for themselves.

The ninth overall pick in 2000, Urlacher was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording 123 tackles and eight sacks. He was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and an eight-time Pro Bowler who led Chicago to four division titles and a berth in Super Bowl XLI.

Urlacher retired with 41.5 sacks and 22 interceptions. He recorded 100-plus tackles in nine of 13 seasons in the NFL. When Urlacher fell short of 100 tackles, it was solely due to injuries -- back, wrist and calf.

Urlacher could literally do it all on the football field. He had the ability and athleticism to drop back into coverage and take away the middle third of the field better than any linebacker in the game. Urlacher had the speed to make plays sideline to sideline, but also the football intelligence to help run Lovie Smith’s Cover 2 scheme to perfection.

The Bears finished top five in points allowed four times when Urlacher anchored the defense.

“Well, he was a dominant guy as a Mike linebacker,” said Bears head coach John Fox, who thinks Urlacher is a Hall of Famer.

“And what was kind of unusual about Brian was he kind of played like a monster man at New Mexico. I think to come in here being a DB for most of your career in college and then transforming into a middle linebacker and [be] the best in the business that I remember during that time -- hope I’m not offending anybody else. And he was good in both the run and pass. He was sideline to sideline. You couldn’t get away from him because he’s right in the middle of the defense. He was part of a lot of really good defenses here in that time and I thought was a dominant player.”

But Urlacher’s greatness, in my opinion, extended beyond the playing field.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more well-liked and respected superstar than Urlacher. He made time for everybody inside the building – no matter your supposed level of importance.

If certain Hall of Fame voters are determined to keep receiver Terrell Owens out because of his perceived negative impact inside the locker room, then Urlacher needs to be rewarded for the first-class leadership he provided Chicago for 13 seasons.

Bears cornerback Sherrick McManis is the only person left inside the locker room who played with Urlacher. The Bears traded for McManis in 2012 – Urlacher’s final year in the NFL before the team, regrettably, ran him off.

“He’s an awesome guy, man,” McManis said. “When I first got here and walked into the building, he was one of the first ones to introduce himself to me. He welcomed me. I knew exactly who he was, but I’m sure he didn’t know who I was. But he gave me some respect, shook my hand and welcomed me to the building. That was pretty sweet. He didn’t have to do that.”

As the face of the franchise, Urlacher didn’t have to do a lot of things – but he did. And that’s what made him so special.