As most readers of this feature know, my team is the Green Bay Packers. The Bears are the eternal, ancient rival and so Bears middle linebackers have played a substantial role in the course of this rivalry. I only really saw Dick Butkus play at the tail end of his career, which was cut short because of the many injuries he suffered, so I never really got a sense of his greatness except through highlight packages from NFL Films. I saw plenty of Mike Singletary and Urlacher and while they were very different players, they were both great. And the common trait between the two is uncommon football intelligence. They both could understand what was happening on the field immediately and find a way to defeat the play that was coming at them. Singletary, who was undersized for the position, did it with sheer force of will, while Urlacher, who was just about the prototype middle linebacker, did it with astonishing athleticism.
Urlacher made a play in the 2010 NFC Championship Game that almost changed the course of NFL history. The Packers were going in for a touchdown that might put the game out of reach, when suddenly Urlacher struck:
Aaron Rodgers was able to bring Urlacher down, barely, and the offensively challenged Bears weren't able to overcome the Packers that day, but you see Urlacher's intelligence and talent on display in the video. A guy who is 6'4" and played at around 260 pounds shouldn't be able to move that well, especially in the latter stages of his career, but Urlacher could do it and he used his abilities to make big plays on a regular basis. He's leaving maybe a little sooner than he'd liked, but secure in the knowledge that he is one of the best middle linebackers to ever play the game.