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The Life

December 13, 2001
The Next Urlacher
ESPN The Magazine

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It might have been Roger Clemens who said he'd knock down his mother if she crowded the plate on him.

Brian Urlacher didn't go that far -- but he did knock down his baby brother.

It was back in the day ... back in Lovington, N.M., the dusty oilfields town where the Bears' star linebacker grew up not far from the West Texas border ... back when Brian and Casey Urlacher didn't get along that well. A year apart, the battling siblings always asked to be placed on opposite sides in Little League baseball.

"I was pitching and the first time he came up, Casey took me to the fence. Absolutely knocked the crap out of the ball," says Brian. "So the next time up, naturally, I had to bean him. We were always competitive, always wanted to be better than the other guy. We didn't realize how lucky we were to be together."

But by the time Brian had gone off to become the larrupin' Lobo at the University of New Mexico and Casey had spent a year at New Mexico Military Academy, they had figured it out. "My brother sat out a year of football so he could watch me during my senior season at Albuquerque," says Brian. "Wherever I got drafted, he was coming with me."

So it was that the summer before last Chad Eisele, the new football coach at Lake Forest College, read in the Chicago Tribune that the Bears' No. 9 draft choice, this rookie linebacker with the bullet body and the funny name, was looking for a school where his baby brother could enroll.

Eisele is not an original rockin' Isley Brother, but inasmuch as this other Urlacher was a 6'2", 240-pound virtual clonebacker of Brian, the coach would have been forgiven an enthusiastic Twist and Shout before he immediately went to the phone and called an old friend, Bears' linebacker coach Chuck Bullough. The rest is not merely history but misery -- for the poor ballcarriers opposing both the Bears and the Foresters of Lake Forest.

For two years now the 'Lachs have been creating havoc around the Lakes -- Casey, 22, lives with Brian, his wife and baby daughter in Lake Bluff (which is five minutes from Lake Forest College and 10 minutes from Bears headquarters) -- as the the two brothers double-handedly reverse the fortunes of not only Chicago's beloved NFL franchise but the suburban Foresters, as well. Casey set a school record with 125 tackles this season (which also led the Midwest Conference), ran for two TDs on offense and scored one on a kickoff return. He was named MVP for the 4-6 Foresters. Quite plainly, Eisele claims, Urlacher II has become a dominant player in Division III.

Casey's always been the second-most dominant player in the Urlacher division. Perhaps owing to that near-beheading, Brian usually took his brother's measure on the diamond. In basketball at Lovington High, Brian usually outscored Casey. In football the two won a state championship together. "He was a defensive end and I was a safety," Brian says. "If Casey didn't hit people at the line of scrimmage, I hit them right afterwards."

And, if the blood brothers didn't nail you on D, their stepbrother -- David Lenard, a year younger than Casey, with whom they shared a bedroom and nightly competitions on the bucking barrel (to simulate rodeo bull riding) up in the family garage -- put you away on O. (David was the tight end for the Lovington High Wildcats.)

"Brian always made curfew back then; he was the solid one," says the Urlachers' stepfather, Troy Lenard. "But, now, Casey and David, they were just downright mean and ornery."

Today? "We respect each other," Brian says of the band of brothers. (David's currently working in Tyler, Texas.) "I look after Casey around the house, try to get him to focus on schoolwork and football -- rather than the other things."

Moving in and living together have brought the brothers much closer. Casey goes to all the Bears' home games, and when Brian is able he shows up down the road to catch the Foresters. The two compare war wounds and hang out with each other's teammates.

While Brian is a moderate in the tattoo department -- the standard barbed wire and a heart/infinity number -- Casey's back is dominated by a Hebrew saying which translates to Wherever the Lord goes, I will follow.

As Casey told D3football.com: "My brother's the same way he's always been since we moved up here. You'd never know he's a star player for the Chicago Bears. To me, he's still just a big kid. My friends come over and think he's cool."

After next year, could Casey make a similarly cool impact on the NFL?

"He works out with the same trainer I do and does everything a little better than I do," says Brian. "Bench press great, faster 40. He's solid, squatty, gets under people and crushes 'em. He's only a junior and it will be hard for him because of his small school. But if he gets to the combine, if somebody gives him a shot, he'll do fine. From what I've seen of the guys in this league, he can play up here."

But if "up here" turns out not to be in Chicago, Casey will have to find a new place to crash.

And he may need to get a dermatologist to remove that tattoo.

Curry Kirkpatrick is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail curry.kirkpatrick@espnmag.com.



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