We've reached the halfway point of this series! I know many of you have been looking forward to this post, as well as my next, since this series began. We are about to embark on what is arguably the most distinguished and deep position in our team's history; linebacker. This post will have not one but TWO Hall of Famers and one likely future member. This, as well as the next post, will be sure to generate some tough decisions on my part and possibly lead to some criticism on your end. So without further ado, let's take a gander at this bunch!
Four linebackers made the list, while a center filled out the other spot and another center got an honorable mention. It's easy to forget that the Bears have a storied history at center, among other positions. While researching for this post it surprised me to find other significant players at numbers I usually only think of with one guy (50 and 51). While these numbers are synonymous with linebackers, one of the franchises best receivers wore one and a solid lineman wore the other.
50 - Mike Singletary, MLB (1981-92): The man with the crazy eyes patrolled the middle for over a decade in a Bears uni. Known as Samurai Mike he made receivers think twice about going over the middle and he stuffed runners in their path. He holds the team record for most consecutive Pro-Bowls (10) and was a 7-time First-Team All-Pro. He was a first ballot Hall of Famer and known as one of the best MLBs ever. He had seven career INTs and 19 sacks. Honorable Mention - Mike Pyle, C (1960-69)
51 - Dick Butkus, MLB (1965-73): The man who needs no introduction, although that goes for three of the men in this post. The eight-time Pro-Bowler and five-time First Team All-Pro redefined the position. He also may have started the tradition of great Chicago mustaches. He was an intimidating force on the field who was known to strike fear into many men in his day. Click his name to read his Taking a Look in the Bears History Book post. Honorable Mention - Ken Kavanaugh, E (1940-50): Kavanaugh was the first great receiver our team ever had. He twice made the Pro Bowl and twice led the league in TD catches. His career yardage puts him eighth all time in team history while he is 31st in receptions. Doing the math you can see why he is the Bears' all-time leader in yards per catch (among those with at least 100 receptions) with 22.4. Now they didn't throw a whole lot back then (the most catches he ever had in a season was 32. 32!!!! That would've have been sixth on the 2010 squad) but that's still impressive.
52 - Dan Neal, C (1975-83): Neal was the man at center until Jay Hilgenberg arrived. He started 94 out of the 115 games he played in for Chicago. This is about all I know and could find of the man.
53 - Warrick Holdman, LB (1999-2003): He appeared in 59 games with 47 starts during his time in Chicago. In that time he gathered 3.5 sacks, one INT, seven forced fumbles and 12 pass deflections.
54 - Brian Urlacher, MLB (2000-present): The man who picked up the middle linebacker mantle after Singletary. He again redefined the position, which has been done by past Bears MLBs Bill George, Butkus and Singletary. Urlacher brought great size to the position but also speed like no one had ever seen before. Urlacher played safety in college and some wondered if he could make the transition. Well with seven Pro-Bowls and four First Team All-Pro votes he has silenced many. Not enough for you? How about 41.5 sacks, 18 INTs, nine forced fumbles, 72 pass deflections and the Bears all-time leading tackler with 913 and counting? He also has three TDs; one fumble return, one INT return (off Favre, no less) and one receiving. If he doesn't end up in Canton it will be a travesty. It pains me whenever people say Ray Lewis and Derrick Brooks as the greatest LBs over the last 15 years with no mention whatsoever of Urlacher.