Brian Urlacher waves at the Hall of Fame festivities.

Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports

Holmes: Urlacher's Speech Hits All The Right Notes

Brian Urlacher showed great appreciation for his family and friends.

Laurence Holmes
August 05, 2018 - 11:09 am
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CANTON, Ohio (670 The Score) -- It’s about an hour drive from Canton, Ohio to Cleveland. On Saturday evening, I spent the majority of the drive trying to digest Brian Urlacher’s Hall of Fame speech.

The Hall suggests that each enshrinee keep their speech to about 15 minutes. Going into Saturday, I thought Urlacher was a lock for the under. He talks fast, and he hates talking about himself. That’s a good combination for a speedy speech. By my watch, Urlacher’s speech went 19 minutes, 10 seconds. That was surprising but not the most surprising aspect of his time at the podium.

Each day, those of us who cover sports for a living have to reconcile that we don’t really know the people that we cover. Some of that's by design. When it came to reporting on the personal lives of the athletes who I covered, I developed a code. Basically, personal lives were off limits unless the player had committed a crime or if something in their personal life was affecting his play on the field, which, granted, can be a little tricky to quantify. In the rare instances when athletes would invite me into their personal life, I was careful with the information that access granted me.

I say all of that because I knew some of the backstory to Urlacher’s speech, and I was pleasantly surprised with his candor.

Urlacher was a fairly private individual when it came to sharing his life with the media and fans. It’s understandable. He wanted to be known for what he did on the field. So it wasn’t lost on me that on a night in which everyone was there to celebrate his on-field accomplishments, Urlacher took the opportunity to lay his soul bare. It’s significant that both figuratively and literally, he was in a place where he felt safe to share.

I thought that Bob Babich was an interesting choice for his introduction. My money would’ve been on Lance Briggs or Lovie Smith. In a conversation with Charles Tillman on my show last week, I got clarity on why Babich was the choice. Position coaches are usually close with their pupils. It’s these coaches who play good cop to the coordinator's or head coach’s bad cop. They are usually the first contact point if a player is struggling with something on or off the field.

It would seem that Babich did more than just the required. Tillman had told me that Urlacher saw Babich as a father figure, a sentiment that Urlacher echoed in his speech. Urlacher emotionally showed his appreciation for the guidance that he got from Babich, and it was great to see.

The other part of Urlacher’s message that I thought was so important was the love that he showed for his step-dad along with the absolution that he showed for his birth father. I’ve heard being a step-parent can often be described as receiving all of the responsibility and none of the glory. Urlacher taking time to single out his step-dad for raising him was heartwarming. It was a sentiment that he shared about his current wife, and it’s clear why he has an appreciation for the role she plays in their household.

Urlacher's message for his father was brief but powerful. Had he omitted his father from the speech, everyone would’ve understood why, but he chose to use the platform as acknowledgement and show forgiveness. It’s clear that not having a relationship with his father has scarred him, and being so open with those scars was an emotional surprise. I’ve seen Urlacher achieve many great accomplishments in his career, but nothing was as courageous as that.

Over the 19:10, we got to see Urlacher be a funny, supportive and ball-busting teammate. We got to see him be a grateful son to a mom whom he loved dearly. We even saw him be an adoring father. It was wonderful.

As I leave Canton, I leave having learned more about Brian Urlacher in that 19:10 than his entire 13-year career with the Bears. In those moments, the Bears' Superman turned into Clark Kent, right before our eye.

It was glorious.

Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.