NFL Bears’ Ur­lacher, Pack­ers’ Kramer en­ter Hall of Fame

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Sports -

Brian Ur­lacher be­came the record-28th Chicago Bear in­ducted into the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame.

A first-year nom­i­nee who filled the tra­di­tion of out­stand­ing mid­dle lineback­ers in the Windy City, Ur­lacher was a safety at New Mex­ico. Chicago se­lected him ninth over­all in the 2000 draft and im­me­di­ately con­verted him to line­backer. He spent two weeks in train­ing camp on the out­side, then was moved in­side — for 13 sea­sons.

“I love ev­ery­thing about foot­ball: the friend­ships, the coaches, the teach­ers, the chal­lenges, the op­por­tu­nity to ex­cel. I loved go­ing to work ev­ery day for 13 years,” said the 2000 NFL De­fen­sive Rookie of the Year and 2005 De­fen­sive Player of the Year, a sea­son in which Ur­lacher had 171 tack­les.

The Bears won four divi­sion ti­tles and one con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship with Ur­lacher, their ca­reer tack­les leader who also had 41 sacks and 22 in­ter­cep­tions. The five­time All-Pro and mem­ber of the 2000s NFL Al­lDecade Team even did some work on spe­cial teams.

But it was in the heart of the de­fense where he shone.

“The most cov­eted po­si­tion for a de­fen­sive player to play is mid­dle line­backer for the Chicago Bears,” said Ur­lacher, who had to hold back tears sev­eral times. “Just think about it. I hope over my 13 sea­sons I made you Bears fans proud.”

The long, long wait for Jerry Kramer ended. At last, the star guard of the Green Bay Pack­ers was in­ducted.

A se­nior com­mit­tee nom­i­nee, Kramer be­came el­i­gi­ble in 1974 af­ter 11 sea­sons with the Pack­ers in which he won five NFL cham­pi­onships and two Su­per Bowls. Now 82, he ad­mit­ted to be­ing bit­ter when of­ten passed over for the hall, but that any such feel­ings “dis­ap­peared” when he got in this year.

Kramer noted the Pack­ers went 1-10-1, the worst record in their his­tory, when he was a rookie.

“Coach Lom­bardi ar­rived and the world turned around,” said Kramer, one of the an­chors of the vaunted Green Bay of­fen­sive line un­der Vince Lom­bardi, and the guy who sprung the block to lead Bart Starr’s quar­ter­back sneak to win the Ice Bowl against Dal­las for the 1967 con­fer­ence ti­tle. The Pack­ers then won a sec­ond straight Su­per Bowl.

Kramer also spent some time place­kick­ing for Green Bay. He made five All-Pro squads, the NFL’s 50th An­niver­sary Team, NFL All-Decade Team of the 1960s and the Su­per Bowl Sil­ver An­niver­sary Team.

He paid trib­ute to learn­ing the im­por­tance of “prepa­ra­tion, com­mit­ment, dis­ci­pline, con­sis­tency, pride, tenac­ity, be­lief in your team and be­lief in your­self.”

“It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence to be with him and have him bring you along,” he said of Lom­bardi. “Ap­proval and be­lief: pow­er­ful, pow­er­ful tools.”

In­ducted prior in the evening were Bobby Beathard, who won four Su­per Bowls as a team ex­ec­u­tive and drafted four Pro Foot­ball Hall of Famers, and Robert Brazile, who earned that nick­name “Dr. Doom” by play­ing in all 147 games for the Hous­ton Oil­ers in his 10-year NFL ca­reer.

Ray Lewis, Randy Moss, Brian Dawkins were sched­uled to be in­ducted later in the evening.

DAVID RICHARD AP

Brian Ur­lacher de­liv­ers his speech dur­ing in­duc­tions at the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame on Satur­day in Can­ton, Ohio.

RON SCH­WANE AP

Jerry Kramer de­liv­ers his in­duc­tion speech at the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame on Satur­day in Can­ton, Ohio.

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