The Bears' tradition of great middle linebackers can be researched back to the invention of the position. The distinction of being the first man in the middle is held by Bears Hall of Famer Bill George, whose career spanned most of the 1950's and over half of the 60's.
George was drafted by the Bears in 1951 and went on to make 8 consecutive pro bowls from 1955 through 1962. Injuries and the acquirement of another middle linebacker in the 1965 draft led to his release from the team following that '65 season. At his Hall of Fame induction ceremony he was called "the meanest Bear ever."
Of course the linebacker the Bears drafted to replace George was none other than Dick Butkus. While most hard hitting defensive players would hit like a pick up truck, Butkus would hit with the force of an eighteen wheeler. After he hit a running back or receiver the guy would feel it for eight weeks.
Whereas George invented the position, Butkus is widely believed to have perfected it. He wasn't huge. He wasn't blessed with super speed. But he was always around the ball. He seemed to know exactly where a ball carrier or receiver was going to be and was always there to meet them.
Butkus had an undeniable knack for making interceptions, recovering fumbles, and forcing fumbles. Many times he would force a fumble and then recover the football himself.
He was inducted into the Hall in 1979 and in an on field ceremony in 1994 he had his number 51 retired.
After Butkus Bears fans had to wait a few years for the next superstar middle linebacker. That came in the person of Mike Singletary from Baylor University. Drafted in 1981, Singletary did not have to wait long to crack the starting line-up.
All he would accomplish is an amazing 10 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, become one of the focal points of the Bears' great 46 defense of the 80's, and be instrumental on the Bears 1985 Super Bowl winning team. Singletary would scare running backs into fumbling. He just personified nasty.
The Hall of Fame brought Mike Singletary into the fold in 1998. Two years later the next great middle linebacker would come to the Bears.
While Brian Urlacher was drafted by the Bears in the first round of the 2000 draft, he did not immediately impress. This was due in part by his playing an outside linebacker position. Three games into his professional career however, he found a home playing in the middle of the vaunted Chicago Bears defense.
In 2000 Urlacher was named the NFL's Rookie of the Year. He was simply too fast and strong for most offenses to beat him. He went from sideline to sideline with lightning quickness and an almost inhuman strength.
Before his retirement, after thirteen years playing in only navy blue and orange, Urlacher would play in 8 Pro Bowls and be voted as the NFL defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
Now, while this brief synopsis of the four best middle linebackers ever to play for the Bears is not enough to persuade anyone to vote for any player in particular, that was not the reason for this exercise.
The question on the table is meant for the most emphatic Bears fans among us. Although all opinions are welcome I believe the proper amount of research is required to make an informed and just decision.
So Bears fans, who's your choice? Me, I'm going with Butkus. ( This is a previous post that has been edited).
Filed under: Uncategorized