By Wanda Wiedman // @WandaW63
Etched on the side of a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota is a monument with the faces of four of our country’s most prolific presidents. Hundreds of thousands of visitors have seen this remarkable memorial, a testament to those who have taken part in building this country.
But in the city of Chicago, they finally have their own monument of middle linebackers that will be forever embodied in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The Chicago Bears have 27 players enshrined in the PFHOF and on August 3, 2018, the 28th member will be inducted; middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
But in order to understand and embrace the romance and charisma these impact players made for Chicago, it would only be fitting to introduce the Mount Rushmore of Bears middle linebackers.
Bill George – 1952-1966
During the stretch of the 1950’s – 1960’s the Bears were known to have a ferocious, highly efficient defensive team. The team was driven on the back of middle linebacker Bill George, a 6-2, 230-pound ever-evolving player. In his first start in 1952, he was inserted at the middle guard position because back in the day, teams were using a five-man defensive front.
During a game against the Eagles, George had one job: Stop the pass by bumping the center from a three-point stance and drop back. But it just so happened that the Eagles quarterback was throwing a lot of short passes over George’s head. When he realized he could just go for the ball, George proceeded to intercept him and that continued throughout his career for a total of 18 interceptions. He loved going after the quarterback and stopping any form of a shotgun formation.
Dick Butkus – 1965-1973
This middle linebacker wreaked havoc to offensive units in the NFL. At 6-3, 245 pounds he played with just one goal in mind: to simply be the best at his position. The Chicago Bear first-rate star to the mlb position away from the 14-year veteran George. In nine seasons, he took the ball away from opponents 47 times, a record still held in Chicago. He recovered 25 fumbles from the opposition and intercepted 22 passes.
But that just wasn’t enough for Butkus. He also returned 12 kickoffs and once rushed for 28 yards on a fake punt play. On two occasions he caught passes for extra points. For some, he is known as “The Maestro of Mayhem”, and to others “The Enforcer”. No matter what his nickname was he brought versatility to the linebacker position.
Mike Singletary – 1981-1992
Straight out of Baylor, Mike Singletary had a no-nonsense approach to football, making him a perfect fit for the mlb position for the Bears. In his rookie year, he was considered too short and as defensive coach Buddy Ryan viewed him, a short fat guy. But he got his chance against the Kansas City Chiefs in which he recorded 10 tackles and a forced fumble in that game.
Singletary’s tremendous drive combined with Ryan’s relentless pressure, pushed “Samurai Mike” to become the complete package. He became the cornerstone of the 46 defense. In 11 seasons he was the lead tackler. Eyes as big as quarters when he watched the pieces move on the field, Singletary was a constant force on the defense. A real student of the game. Behind hours of film study, he was the “Man” of the defense.
Brian Urlacher – 2000 – 2012
Take all the prior linebacker legends and wrap them into one incredible player and out comes Brian Urlacher. A freakishly talented athlete that could roam the field, swivel his hips to the direction of the ball and move on it as his feet would take him, he embodied them all. A little bit of George’s ball-hawk skills, Butkus’s ability to force fumbles and intercept passes and Singletary’s mean, cut-to-the-quick tackling prowess, Urlacher was the dream middle linebacker.
In his 13 year NFL career he was selected to eight Pro Bowls, four first-team All-Pro, 41.5 sacks, 1354 tackles, 11 forced fumbles, 22 interceptions and four career touchdowns. Urlacher was a first round pick in 2000 and a first ballot Hall of Famer 18 years later. It will be another eight years before another HOF linebacker comes out of Chicago, or maybe not. But for now, the four will be forever linked.
Talk Bears with Wanda on Twitter @WandaW63