Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010
By Jim Miller
I remember when the Bears selected what scouts and analysts dubbed "an extremely athletic safety" out of New Mexico.
Everyone thought he was too big to excel at safety in the NFL and would be converted to linebacker. Head coach Dick Jauron did just that immediately declaring strong side linebacker may be Brian Urlacher's ideal spot.
I also remember guys on the team somewhat frustrated that our first round draft pick was going to be a project.
When he arrived, we all saw the athleticism, but we also saw tight ends shredding him at the line of scrimmage in minicamps and through training camp. It was all new to Urlacher as he had not experienced being in the box face up against a tight end. It wasn't just the release techniques of tight ends Brian struggled to adapt to early, it was fullback iso's and releases, wide receivers crack blocking or guards pulling to kick out block. Urlacher kept plugging along but ultimately lost a hard fought training camp to Roosevelt Colvin for the starting job.
Since that time I have witnessed him fill the "A" gap on a playaction iso fake and still get to 15 yards depth in coverage to break up the pass to a tight end on a middle read. Brian stays vertical or attacks middle.
It wasn't long before injuries started to deplete the depth at linebacker. Barry Minter was a team leader, good player and our starting MLB, but went down with injury forcing Jauron and the coaching staff to throw the young buck in there. His true position had been found by accident.
Urlacher was amazing to watch while as he was out there simply reacting and flying to the football. I remember defensive coaches and teammates coming out of the defensive meetings buzzing about what Urlacher was putting on tape.
I was even more impressed competing against him following his initial training camp, but now as our starting MLB. He and I would mess with each other, each winning our individual battles, then letting each other know about it. He was now confident and becoming a true stud at his position in the NFL.
All of the success has never has gone to his head because he has always respected the game too much.
It is now time to pay him our respects as the bears all-time leading tackler. He is truly one of the greats who has changed the game - the mold of MLB - and is headed for Canton.
Just for the record, he could of done it as a safety too!
Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.