Manning, Colts saw Urlacher potential

Peyton Manning got the better of Brian Urlacher in Super Bowl XLI. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Peyton Manning revealed on Thursday that his former team, the Indianapolis Colts, hoped that recently retired Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher would fall to them in the 2000 NFL Draft.

But with Indianapolis sitting at No. 28, there's no way that would happen. The Bears snatched up the future franchise icon with the ninth overall pick, while the Colts settled for Brigham Young's Rob Morris, who went on to enjoy an eight-year run in Indianapolis.

"Absolutely, (Urlacher) was high on (former Colts general manager) Bill Polian's list," Manning told ESPN 1000's "The Waddle and Silvy Show". "We drafted a middle linebacker named Rob Morris that year. He and Urlacher were kind of the top guys.

"Rob was a very productive player for us. But certainly, I remember Bill Polian telling me just what a special player this Urlacher was. Polian always had that great eye for talent. Of course, nobody knew for certain this guy was gonna go on to have a Hall-of-Fame career. But anybody with that kind of athletic ability and speed, it's very impressive."

Manning said he sent a text Thursday morning to Urlacher, who announced his retirement Wednesday, to wish the linebacker well. Because of Polian's mention of Urlacher going into the draft, Manning recalls watching highlights of what he hoped would be his eventual Colts' teammate when the Bears selected the linebacker.

Manning and Urlacher faced off in Super Bowl XLI with the Colts coming out on top 29-17. Urlacher finished that game with 10 tackles and a pass breakup.

Morris played on that Super Bowl Colts team, and finished his career in 2007 having played in 99 games with 67 starts, posting 358 tackles, two sacks and an interception. Urlacher, meanwhile, racked up 1,779 tackles, 180 starts and became one of four players since sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982 to register 40 or more sacks and 20 or more interceptions over his career.

"Brian Urlacher is truly a one-of-a-kind middle linebacker. There's nobody else that has that size. It's kind of like those rare running backs: the Eric Dickersons, the Eddie Georges, the late-great Chuck Muncie. A 6-4, 230-235-pound running back, those were kind of rare," Manning said. "I remember seeing those highlights of Brian when he got drafted because we drafted a middle linebacker that year in Indianapolis, and we were kind of hoping Urlacher might fall to us.

"But seeing him returning punts in college and his highlights in college were pretty unbelievable for a guy that was about to play middle linebacker. So whatever word you want to use -- a rare athlete, freak -- nobody's gonna come along again that has that kind of size and that kind of speed playing the middle linebacker position."

Will Urlacher become a first ballot Hall of Famer? Manning thinks so, but didn't want to speculate.

"The way I equate it, it's kind of like you know you're gonna get a date with the best looking girl in high school. You know you're gonna get a date with her. It may not be this year. It may not be four years from now. But you're gonna get that date," Manning said. "So why not sit back, and enjoy it, and wait (for) when it happens.

"Brian Urlacher is going to get in the Hall of Fame. Should it be on the first ballot? Yeah, I think so. I don't know who the voters are and what the criteria (are). I hope that's not a negative if, God forbid, Brian gets in on the second ballot. The simple fact is he's gonna be right up in there next to (Dick) Butkus, (Mike) Singletary, (Ray) Nitschke -- you name all the great middle linebackers -- right where he belongs. I hope he just can sit back and enjoy the ride. I wish him great peace during this time. I hope he's at peace with his decision. I know it had to have been a difficult one for him. I think it's time to kind of celebrate (Urlacher's career)."