Longtime Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher was the first of four men enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Saturday night to approach tears.
He showed deep emotion while reflecting on his late mother, calling her the hardest-working person he’s ever known. He also reflected on the rather sudden end to his career with the Bears, who released him in 2013 after 13 years, and Urlacher chose not to sign with another team.
“I never had a chance to say goodbye,” Urlacher said.
The eight-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and 2005 Defensive Player of the Year looked back not on the accomplishments of his career, but the way he approached the game.
“As a player, I want to be remembered as a good teammate, that’s it,” Urlacher said. “Just know how much I respected the game. ... I feel like I played the right way.
“I didn’t just compete to beat the other person. I competed to be my best.”
After waiting 49 years after retirement to get in, longtime Green Bay Packers guard Jerry Kramer did not disappoint, delivering a lengthy speech filled with stories and inspirational quotes. In one anecdote, the colorful Kramer described the challenge of negotiating a contract back in an era when players didn’t have agents or know what their peers made.
Kramer said he knew his request for an $8,000 salary was too low when the immediate response came back, “OK, sign here.”
“I left a few bucks on the table, but then I recovered quickly: I said, ‘I want a signing bonus, too.’ “ Kramer, who was an 11-time finalist before getting the nod this year, recounted. “He said, ‘What about $250?’ I said, ‘OK that’d be great, that’d be super.’ “
Kramer, 82, also emphasized the importance of living a life built on character, not his list of accomplishments.
“Once the stadium lights are off, the championship ring is on the dresser, the only thing left at this time is to lead a life of quality and excellence and make this world a better place because you were in it,” he said. “You can, if you will.”
Robert Brazile, a seven-time Pro Bowler with the Houston Oilers, wore a memorable belt buckle to honor the late Bum Phillips, his former head coach. When Phillips passed away in 2013, he left the belt buckle — which features gold lettering of the team’s name and his name, along with a football and Phillips’ signature cowboy hat — to Brazile.
“When they knocked on my door, all of my dreams came true,” Brazile, the man nicknamed Dr. Doom, said emphatically. “And after all these years I’m at home!”
The theme of longtime NFL personnel man Bobby Beathard’s induction was family, as he thanked those closest to him for always supporting him while he worked long hours on the job. Beathard is best known for helping build four Super Bowl teams, two as director of player personnel for the Miami Dolphins and two as general manager of the Washington Redskins.
Among his supporters in the crowd was San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard, whom 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan made sure to excuse from training camp so he could be in attendance. Meanwhile, one of Bobby Beathard’s sons, country music singer Casey Beathard, teamed up with his own son, country music singer Tucker Beathard, to produce a song commemorating his father’s enshrinement.
Beathard, 81, is suffering from the early stages of dementia and chose to pre-record his speech. He also spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons and then-San Diego Chargers.
—Field Level Media