Bears legend Urlacher takes the field with Naval Station Great Lakes sailors
As the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers prepared for their Thursday night game kicking off the NFL season, two recent team legends were helping sailors at Naval Station Great Lakes in North Chicago get a taste of what it's like to be a pro.
Former Bears linebacker (and Hall of Famer) Brian Urlacher and former Packers receiver Jordy Nelson shared the field Tuesday with nearly 100 sailors as part of USAA's Salute to Service NFL Boot Camp. The sailors, who come from across the country to train at the base, were put through the paces much like prospective pros at the annual NFL draft combine.
There was of course the 40-yard dash, long an instrument with which to test one's suitability for pro football.
At one end of the field, the sailors chucked the ball as far as they could. At the other, they jumped as high as gravity and their legs would allow.
Urlacher and Nelson roamed around offering tips and encouragement to the sailors. Sailor Darren Hogan of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, got tips from Urlacher before he faced the three-cone shuttle station, where sailors had to sprint back and forth in a manner that led some, especially those who showed up without cleats, to fall to the turf.
"He told me to stay low and finish through strong," Hogan said, adding that he was more excited than nervous to be sprinting in front of Urlacher. "It was awesome for them to come here. It boosts morale and is a great way to start the football season and end the summer."
The event is part of a series put on for U.S. Military service members by USAA, a financial service company which largely sells to the military community. The boot camp Tuesday was the seventh USAA event of the preseason and the first in the Chicago area.
Urlacher and Nelson, who played each other many times during the five seasons when their careers overlapped, were all smiles at the event and obliged any sailors' requests for autographs. Neither man had any fond memories to share from their actual NFL combine experience.
"It was so stressful for me. I was a little guy coming from a small school so I didn't know what to expect," said University of New Mexico alum Urlacher, who, at 6'4", towered over the reporters huddling around him. "It was basically three days of walking around in our tights the whole time. It was a meat market."
As for the coming clash between the Bears and Packers, Urlacher and Nelson agreed they were excited to watch the game. Urlacher said he felt the Bears' offense was going to take a step forward and the defense was so good it would be hard to get much better.
"They were so good last year that if they can maintain where they were at, they can have a really good season," Urlacher said.
Nelson, who retired from football in the spring, said he is content to be watching from home.
"I am just going to sit there and watch it," Nelson said. "I won't be wrong anymore, I can't do wrong on Sundays anymore so I'm good."