Brian Urlacher left quite the impression on opposing quarterbacks. And that has nothing to do with his 41 1/2 career sacks.
In the wake of Urlacher’s retirement on Wednesday, two of the league’s greatest QBs took to the airwaves to discuss just how great the player who so frequently chased them down was.
“I've said before that Brian was my favorite player to play against,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who appeared on "The Jim Rome Show" on Wednesday. “I just have the utmost amount of respect for him and the way he plays the game. A lot of memories come to mind. He picked me off a couple times, maybe more than anybody else has. I had one really bad play in the NFC Championship in the 2010 season and was able to somehow grab his knee-slash-thigh area to trip him up for a tackle, and (that's) one of my favorite memories of going against Brian. But the thing I loved about Brian was the conversations between plays, between series, during TV timeouts. I just have a ton of respect for him and wish him nothing but the best. I'll miss him out there."
Rodgers went into further depth in describing Urlacher’s on-field verbosity, saying there was no limit to what the two would discuss.
"Anything and everything. From schematic stuff to silly plays that might have been called," Rodgers said. "We had a back-and-forth one time where I'm making a check, he's making a check, his voice cracks, so laughing about that a few plays later during the TV timeout. Some of the checks that he would do were often very colorful. If he would've been mic'd up at those times, there would have been some good unedited NFL Films stuff. I just always appreciated the way he played the game, his approach, his professionalism. And competing against him was a great honor."
While Rodgers’ green-and-gold garb made him a frequent opponent of Urlacher’s, the linebacker was never on a bigger stage than he was during Super Bowl XLI, when the Bears took on Peyton Manning and the Colts. Manning, now the signal-caller for the Broncos, joined "Waddle & Silvy" on WMVP-AM on Thursday to, as he put it, celebrate Urlacher’s career.
“Brian has been a player of my generation. Thirty years from now when I think about the great players that I played against during my career, Brian Urlacher's going to be one of the first names that comes to mind,” Manning said. “And so it's sad to me that some of these guys that I've been playing with for over a decade now are retiring. It's a sad day, but it's also a celebration of Brian's unbelievable career. It's been an honor and a privilege to compete against him, to play against him. I've enjoyed getting to know Brian, playing in a number of Pro Bowls together. So it really is a celebration of his unbelievable career there in Chicago.”
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Manning, one of the league’s all-time greats, went into great detail in describing what exactly made Urlacher such a special player.
“Brian was the leader of that defense, just a great leader,” Manning said. “I could always tell that he made the other players around him better, which to me is a great sign of a great player and of a great leader. I always thought Brian elevated the players around him. He was extremely durable. He always answered the bell, there’s no question. I guarantee you, there’s always a number of injuries and painful body parts that he never mentioned, he always played through, which kind of proves his toughness. He’s truly one of the greats of the game.
“I was watching highlights last night when people were talking about his retirement, and I tell you what, he never dropped an interception. I remember the first play of the Super Bowl, I threw the ball. I thought I was throwing it over him, I just thought I was clearly over Urlacher’s head. You couldn’t throw it high enough to get it over him because he was 6’5” with gosh knows what a vertical. All these great highlights of him catching an interception and always returning them back for a touchdown because he turned into a running back. Those are things that aren’t very normal, and that’s what I think made him special.”