College: New Mexico
Height: 6’4” Weight: 249
Converted to linebacker as a freshman in college, Urlacher had two nondescript seasons before Rocky Long became head coach at New Mexico and gave him an enhanced role in which he acted as a defensive back as well as linebacker. The versatile Urlacher also saw action as a kick returner and wide receiver, the latter role in which he caught six touchdown passes. As a junior, he led the team with 178 tackles and received All-Mountain West Conference honors and in 1999 he was credited with 148 tackles and five forced fumbles. He received All-America recognition from several sources and was the first round draft choice of the Bears in 2000. Urlacher had an immediate impact as he proved to be ideally suited to playing middle linebacker with his speed and tackling ability in the open field, as well as excellent instincts.
2000 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]
Sacks – 8
Most sacks, game – 2 vs. Minnesota 10/15
Interceptions – 2
Most interceptions, game – 1 vs. Detroit 9/24, vs. Tampa Bay 11/19
Int. return yards – 19
Int. TDs – 0
Fumble recoveries – 1
Forced fumbles – 0
Tackles – 101
Assists – 24
Awards & Honors:
NFL Rookie of the Year: Sporting News
NFL Defensive Player of the Year: AP, PFWA
Bears went 5-11 to finish fifth in the NFC Central.
Urlacher was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the next three seasons and was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection in 2001 and ’02. After being limited to nine games in an injury-plagued 2004 season, in ’05 he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year by the Associated Press in addition to receiving All-NFL and Pro Bowl honors. Urlacher was again a consensus first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl selection in 2006 as the Bears won the NFC Championship. He began to show signs of wear later in the decade and, after typically being a durable player, missed all but one game in 2009 due to a wrist injury in the opening contest. But Urlacher returned to Pro Bowl form in 2010 and ’11 before finishing his career in 2012. Overall, over the course of 13 seasons and 182 games, he accumulated 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 15 fumble recoveries, and over a thousand tackles. He scored five touchdowns, one of which came on his only pass reception. Urlacher was a consensus first-team All-NFL selection four times and was chosen to eight Pro Bowls.
Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL (including NFC/AFC), AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year).