Dick Butkus

Will Brian Urlacher be a first ballot NFL Hall-of-Famer?

Will Brian Urlacher be a first ballot NFL Hall-of-Famer?

On Tuesday night Brian Urlacher was among the 108 players nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2018. Joining the Bears legend as first-time nominees were names such as Randy Moss, Ray Lewis, Steve Hutchinson and Ronde Barber.

Urlacher eventually will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame, that's without a doubt. But whether Urlacher gets in on his first try is another story.

Looking at the raw numbers, in 13 seasons Urlacher amassed 1,353 tackles, 41.5 sacks and 22 interceptions. He was named a Pro Bowler eight times, earned First Team All-Pro honors four times, won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005. In 2010 he was named to the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, and he led the Bears to Super Bowl XLI, where they were defeated by Peyton Manning and the Colts.

A maximum of five modern day players can be enshrined each season, and it's safe to say Lewis and Moss will be among those players. That leaves three slots for players such as Urlacher, Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber, as well as the players who missed out last season such as John Lynch, Terrell Owens, Brian Dawkins and Hines Ward.

Here's a list of linebackers who gained entry on their first try:

2015: Junior Seau
2014: Derrick Brooks
1999: Lawrence Taylor
1998: Mike Singletary
1990: Jack Lambert
1988: Jack Ham
1979: Dick Butkus
1978: Ray Nitschke

Along with Singletary and Butkus, first ballot Bears included Gale Sayers, Walter Payton and George Blanda.

Will Urlacher be next?

The nominees will be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November and to 15 finalists in December.

Bears Classics: Dick Butkus profiles the standard for MLB greatness

Bears Classics: Dick Butkus profiles the standard for MLB greatness

The history of pro football is replete with seminal influences, individuals who changed the game with their play, coaching or other means. Appropriately for a series headlined "Bears Classics," on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at 9:30 p.m. CSN will chronicle the life and career of Butkus — the man who did not create the position of middle linebacker, but effectively defined it after taking the job away from Bill George, who in fact had created the position in 1954 when, as a middle guard in a traditional 5-2 front, he stood upright and changed an area of football forever.

But when Butkus ran onto the field for his first practice after being drafted third overall in the 1965 draft, former Bears teammate and wide receiver Johnny Morris told a friend, “You could almost feel a chill come over the field. Bill [George] knew his time was done.”

The “story” of Butkus is almost anecdotal. As the saying goes in theater, “action is character,” and nowhere would that resonate truer than Butkus, after whom Sylvester Stallone fittingly named his 140-pound bullmastiff in “Rocky.”

In the course of compiling and writing “Tales from the Chicago Bears Sidelines” some years back, I was fortunate enough to come across some of those “actions” that went into the Butkus “character:”

The Bears had a lobby display of their Hall of Fame players, with stories. To wit: Minnesota Vikings running back Dave Osborne had once been annihilated by Butkus on an ill-fated attempted sweep. Osborne was asked after the game what had happened to his blocker on the play. “I don’t know,” Osborne said. “Maybe Butkus ate him.”

[SHOP: Buy a Dick Butkus retro jersey]

Gale Sayers, drafted by the Bears with the No. 4 pick, right after Butkus, was asked by a teammate who the toughest guy Sayers had ever played against. Sayers didn’t answer, just pointed out toward the field: No. 51.

Butkus fury was not reserved for players only. Longtime NFL official Norm Schacter made a call that incensed Butkus, who began raging and finger-pointing in Schacter’s face. Finally Schacter’d had enough.

“Butkus,” Schacter warned, “if you don’t get your finger out of my face, I am going to bite your damn head off!”

Butkus stormed off but not before snarling back, “If you do, you’ll have more brains in your stomach than you do in your head!”

Pittsburgh Steelers center Ray Mansfield recalled Butkus destroying the Steelers’ special teams: “He knocked out L.C. Greenwood on a punt, and he knocked out Warren Bankston, who was a fullback and very good special-teams player,” Mansfield said. “I remember Warren coming over and crying, ‘I don’t know who I am!”

He was not alone.

“Dick was an animal,” said Hall of Fame defensive end Deacon Jones. “I called him a maniac. A stone maniac. He was a well-conditioned animal, and every time he hit you, he tried to put you in the cemetery, not the hospital.”

Hall of Fame to honor Butkus, Dent, Hampton, Sayers at Bears-Vikings game

Hall of Fame to honor Butkus, Dent, Hampton, Sayers at Bears-Vikings game

It will be a special evening for a handful of legendary Bears on Monday night.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame will honor Dick Butkus, Richard Dent, Dan Hampton and Gale Sayers with a Ring of Excellence in a halftime presentation during the Bears-Vikings game at Soldier Field.

The Ring of Excellence is one of three symbols that represents Pro Football Hall of Fame status. The Gold Jacket, the Bronzed Bust and the Ring of Excellence will all be on display during the presentation.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Each former Bear will wear their Gold Jacket and the four Bronzed Busts will be temporarily removed from the Hall of Fame for the ceremony.

Monday marks the second of three seasons in which the Ring of Excellence will be presented to the Hall of Famers.

Check out photos (provided by the Chicago Bears) of each ring below: