Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher believes in the power of football. Known for his aggressive playing style and leadership, he not only helped redefine what it means to play the game, he was and continues to be a fan first.
Jet Linx friend and client Brian Urlacher made a lasting impression on the sport he loves so much. In a remarkable 13-year career with the Chicago Bears, Urlacher applied his trademark charisma and passion to building a defensive legacy, and instilling in those around him not only an appreciation for his own skill, but an unwavering awe of football itself.
“That is part of what playing in Chicago means. Having an appreciation for the history of that franchise,” he said. “For the people that came before me, the precedent that they set. I was the 28th Bear to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That is the most of any team.” There is a tangible reverence and awe in his voice as he speaks about the Bears. “The history behind the Chicago Bears is unmatched by any other team. There are just so many great players that truly helped build the game.”
Many of the early greats he references – Dick Butkus, Bill George, and Clyde Douglas “Bulldog” Turner (all of whom have had their numbers retired by the club for their contribution to the team and have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame) – were, like Urlacher, on the defensive side of the ball. “These folks were a part of that defensive legacy… all about hard hits, tough runs, that truly physical part of the game,” he stated. And then, while still speaking as a former player, the fan comes out. “I love watching a good defensive game. People think its ugly, and its not! It’s good football,” Urlacher continued. “There’s such an appetite for points today. I still love a solid defensive battle.” And when asked if he subscribes to the adage “defense wins championships,” Urlacher erupts with a laugh and an exclamation. “It didn’t win any for us! I do agree with that to some extent. However, the game today… you gotta score points.”
A double-digit tenure with any team in any position is a relative rarity (think Peyton Manning), and it is not lost on Urlacher that his time in Chicago has a special place in football history. “I am very fortunate that they wanted me there,” he stated. “Very fortunate. It is so easy in this day and age to have a falling out of some sort. I loved every minute I played in Chicago.”
It doesn’t take long before Urlacher latches on to another reason playing for Chicago is so special. “Those fans!” he exclaimed. “They standout as number one. They are passionate. They are knowledgeable. And you know, there were some years there where we weren’t very good. Those fans were there no matter what, butts in the seats, even in the freezing cold.”
Urlacher built a Hall of Fame-worthy career on the Bears defense, receiving numerous accolades including the AP’s Defensive Rookie of the Year (logging a career-high eight sacks and leading the team in tackles), Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 (becoming just the second Bears player to receive the award), and finally entering the Hall of Fame in 2018. The Bears won four division titles with Urlacher on the team (2001, 2005, 2006, 2010), and Urlacher himself earned eight Pro Bowl appearances – his first in his rookie season. And in recalling this accomplishment, the fan inside again breaks free. “At the Pro Bowl, there were just so many people I watched as a kid, and was a fan of as someone who loves the game. I was there to play and to represent the Bears, but during practice and warm-ups, you better believe I was a fan. It was absolutely awesome to talk to these people, and surreal to be on their level.” He noted the week surrounding the actual game to be an almost magical time not just for him, but his family as well. “The week leading up to the Pro Bowl game, when you and your family hang out with other players and their families, you end up remembering those times more than the game. Those are the best memories.”
His deep love of the game also colored his time at the Hall of Fame. “I don’t even know how to put it into words,” he began. “I played because I loved football, and when you’re done, to be considered among the best of all time, and to see the company you are in…” After being briefly lost in thought, almost as though he was again rubbing shoulders with other Hall of Fame inductees the week of the ceremony, he continued, “it is just so cool to be as a fan of the game and get to be around those guys and take their greatness in. At the Luncheon before the ceremony, about 25 famous footballers spoke, and I honestly didn’t want it to end. And my family and kids didn’t know what to expect, so they felt that same excitement.”
His kids get to tap into another sort of excitement when they fly with Jet Linx. “Boy, do they enjoy those planes. Those fold out tables where they can dive into a card game together… sometimes they will ask if we can just keep flying!” he laughed. “But seriously, I have been so fortunate to be able to fly privately and to use Jet Linx. The detail they put into it, with everything taken care of, we just drive up to the plane, snag a snack, and off we go. The whole experience is awesome.”
IN APPLYING WHAT I LEARNED IN FOOTBALL TO THE REST OF MY LIFE, I HAVE DISCOVERED WE ALL WIN.Brian Urlacher
Despite his reputation for hard-nosed play, there is a genuine affability in Urlacher that instantly puts one at ease. It’s most easily identified when asked about one of two things – football, or food. “I love to eat!” Urlacher exclaimed. “Love to eat. I’m a big fan of food. And Chicago, man, that is a food city. Even though I primarily live in Arizona now, there are still so many places we miss from Chicago.” Even in retirement, he ensures exercise remains a part of his daily routine. “I like to exercise because I love to eat,” he continued with a laugh. “I don’t want to sacrifice food, so I’ll put in the time to stay fit.”
Life in the desert and off the football field has brought about a new passion – mountain biking. “I never was a treadmill guy,” he confessed. “Now, living in Arizona, I get to put in one or two hours a day on my mountain bike. It’s like therapy, in addition to being a great workout. I’ll come across creatures of all kinds – rabbits, coyotes, snakes.” And much like his beloved football, “It’s a sport that forces you to pay attention,” Urlacher said. “You need to focus on the trails or you’ll end up taking a tumble. And yes, I’ve taken a few. I’ve got some riding buddies that will take me on trials I should not be on,” he laughed.
Though he no longer calls Chicago home, Bears fans far and wide still consider Urlacher a part of their community. “Brian Urlacher exudes the very essence of this city – tough, tenacious, loyal, focusing on others and the team, not himself. 54 is humble and gracious – yet incredibly successful,” noted Cameron Gowans, Base President for Jet Linx Chicago. Director of Jet Card Sales Katy Glynn agreed, noting, “he is a symbol for everything the Chicago Bears are today – he’s tough, he works hard and he leads with his heart.”
Gowans noted that with Jet Linx working to open a private terminal in Chicago early next year, Urlacher will be able to enjoy a seamless, end-to-end Jet Linx experience any time he returns to the Windy City. “From our private terminal in Scottsdale to our soon-to-be-completed facility in PWK, we look forward to continuing to offer the personal attention he sees at departure on the Chicago side of the travel experience. The qualities of Urlacher and the Bears are the qualities that attracted Jet Linx to this town and the things we at Jet Linx Chicago will strive to be known for – bear down, Chicago Bears.”