Former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher remembers vividly the first time he faced Brett Favre in Green Bay: the fifth game of Urlacher’s rookie season in 2000.
"We beat them 27-24 at Lambeau, and I had a sack in that game," Urlacher told ESPN.com in a phone interview. "He threw for like 390 [yards], but we beat them. (It was 333 yards.)
"Every time we played against him, there was a story. I had a couple of picks against him in my career. My first pick-six was against him [in 2007]. I mean, all kinds of good memories against Favre. Even when we lost, it was fun playing against him."
Urlacher, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, expressed his respect for Favre, who will be inducted into the Packers’ Hall of Fame on Saturday.
"When did he retire, like three, four years ago? I can’t believe it took this long,” Urlacher said. "He was a great competitor. His attitude and desire to play the game was one of the best of all time. I think you saw that with how long he played and the streak [297 consecutive regular-season starts].
"And he won. He’s the greatest quarterback in Green Bay history and maybe even in NFL history -- as of right now he is. But Aaron [Rodgers] is not done yet."
In recalling his top Favre moments, Urlacher strayed from the head-to-head matchups and put on his fan hat.
"I’ll never forget the Monday night game when they played Oakland right after his dad passed away," Urlacher said. "That just struck me, as a fan watching football. He threw four touchdowns in the game. It was just awesome to see that, especially on that stage."
From a competitive standpoint, Urlacher believes he first earned Favre’s respect during his second NFL season.
"I still didn’t know what I was doing as a rookie," Urlacher said. "And I think my second year, although they beat us both times, that was the year we were 13-3. I don’t feel like I knew enough my rookie year for him to really know me.
"I’ve never met Brett off the football field. I’ve never seen him at any event. But we had great conversations during the game and during timeouts. You know, as a kid, I was a Cowboys fan, and the Cowboys always played the Packers. I was a huge Brett Favre fan, because how could you not like him as a kid playing football? Then getting a chance to play against him was pretty damn cool."
Urlacher grew to appreciate Favre as a player. He respected how hard Favre threw the football and how willing he was to take risks.
"We always said as a defense that you’re going to have chances to [intercept] the ball against him, but can you catch them? That was the big issue," Urlacher said. "A lot of times, guys couldn’t catch them because he threw the ball so damn hard.
"My second year, I got a pick against him. When I put my hands up to catch it, the ball already was in my chest. Luckily I trapped it and caught it. That’s why he could take chances, because his arm was so damn good."
Did Favre ever talk trash?
"Yeah, he did, but not trying to talk down on you," Urlacher said. "It was all good-natured, I felt. It wasn’t anything like you hear these guys talking today. Same thing with Rodgers, too. It was never demeaning. It was very respectful s--- talking, if that makes sense."
Urlacher actually shared the field with Favre during Favre’s final NFL appearance: Dec. 20, 2010. Favre was playing with the Minnesota Vikings that Monday night. His career came to an end after he was knocked out cold by Bears defensive lineman Corey Wootton.
"I’ll never forget that game because his teammates didn’t go help him when he was on the ground, man," Urlacher said. "I was standing over him and I remember saying, 'Hey, you OK?' And he never said a word, and I was like, 'You guys need to get somebody out here.' He was messed up."
Saturday’s ceremony should be an emotional and enjoyable time for Favre and the Packers. His initial parting with the franchise was far from amicable.
"It’s hard to say how that went down because look what they had sitting and waiting," Urlacher said, referring to Rodgers replacing Favre. "As a fan, do I wish it would have went down better? Yeah. You hate to see a guy leave a team he played for for 16 years the way he left.
"He’s one of the most well-respected guys, from a player’s standpoint, just in the way he played the game and the way he handled himself. I wasn’t his teammate so I don’t know how he was as a teammate. But as a competitor, he was awesome."