CHICAGO (CBS) — Brian Urlacher has become a record-28th Chicago Bear inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
As his golden bust was unveiled, he said “I gotta breathe,” in an attempt not get emotional.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: Patchy Fog To Start, Sunny Throughout The Day
He congratulated his fellow Hall of Fame inductees and said “today is not really about me. I’m here tonight to pay respect to the men and women who made this all possible.”
“This is such a huge honor for me. I never would’ve imagined I would be standing here tonight,” said Urlacher.
A first-year nominee who filled the tradition of great middle linebackers in the Windy City so brilliantly, Urlacher actually was a safety at New Mexico.
Chicago selected him ninth overall in the 2000 draft and immediately converted him to linebacker.
He spent two weeks in training camp on the outside, then was moved inside — for 13 spectacular seasons.
“I love everything about football: the friendships, the coaches, the teachers, the challenges, the opportunity to excel. I loved going to work every day for 13 years,” said the 2000 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and 2005 Defensive Player of the Year, a season in which Urlacher had 171 tackles.
“The two pillars of my life are family and football,” said Urlacher who went on to thank his late mother for showing him the value of hard work.
“She was never too proud to take a job if it meant that she was 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,” said Urlacher.
He also thanked his friends “who supported me when I was down, cheered for me when I was up. Who loved me for just being me. Please know that you all are in my heart.”
Urlacher also acknowledge the fans of the Chicago Bears.READ MORE: Man Shot And Killed In Dispute Outside West Chatham Home
“I never got the chance to say goodbye. The best fans in the world. Even when we stunk, they would sit in their seats in Soldier Field freezing their butts off every time,” he said.
The Bears won four division titles and one conference championship with Urlacher, their career tackles leader who also had 41 1/2 sacks and 22 interceptions. The five-time All-Pro and member of the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team even did some work on special teams.
But it was in the heart of the defense where he shone.
“The most coveted position for a defensive player to play is middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears,” said Urlacher, who had to hold back tears several times. “Just think about it. I hope over my 13 seasons I made you Bears fans proud.”
After thanking and paying tribute to his wife and three children, Urlacher talked about what the game meant for him as a player and a person.
“I competed to be the best. It wasn’t merely about the conquest, it was about the challenge,” said Urlacher. “Competition is in my DNA.”
As he ended his speech, Urlacher reflected on his career and his future after being part of a famed Bears linebacker tradition.
“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,” said Urlacher.
“From this unique vantage point, I’m able to look back and I also look ahead as I embark upon the next leg of my journey. 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 for as much as I can,” said Urlacher, pointing out that his most important legacy was his three children.
“Football did not define me but it has clearly helped me become a better man. Its core values aren’t just football values. They’re life values. In applying what I learned in football for the rest of my life I’ve discovered we all win. For someone as competitive as I am, that victory means everything to me.”MORE NEWS: City Was Warned About Thousands of Corroding Light Poles But Failed to Fix Many, CBS 2 Investigation Finds
The Associated Press contributed to this report.