But it wasn't just talent that made 54 special. Jauron talks about him being tough, smart, coachable and hard working.
Angelo has been around some great players, including Lawrence Taylor, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and Peppers. He said 54 outworked all of them.
"Despite his gifts, he looked at himself like an overachiever," Angelo said. "He had a rare work ethic, very rare, that enabled him to maximize his gifts. Brian did whatever he could to be great. He was so driven. People see the Adonis physique and think everything came easy to him. But nobody outworked him. That's how he gained the respect and trust from his peers and his coaches."
Chicago's newly appointed Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events happens to be one of the city's most influential jazz advocates.
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But Michelle Boone's impact extends far beyond the music she has championed in the job she's about to leave: senior program officer for the Joyce Foundation.
In her seven years at Joyce, Boone has helped direct funds toward culturally diverse drama at Chicago's Silk Road Theatre Project; the training of minority arts administrators at Steppenwolf Theatre; and grass-roots performance organizations across the Midwest – to the tune of $2 million a year.
Though Boone commands a stellar reputation among arts professionals citywide, she knows she's about to take on the toughest job of her career.
"I'm not fooling myself into thinking this will be easy and lots of fun," says Boone, 49. "It's going to be tough. There's going to be a lot of work to do.
"Number one is kind of rebuilding the department. The reality is that there are these two massive departments that have been kind of thrown together," adds Boone.
She refers to Mayor Daley's recent, controversial merger of Department of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor's Office of Special Events (the latter produces the summertime music festivals), with some Cultural Affairs staffers shifted to the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture.
"So how do you bring some unity and some sense of a unified theme to (the) two camps?" asks Boone. "While they've been working together on some things, they've really been functioning independently, and they have very different cultures."
How well these factions cooperate will affect the quality of cultural life in Chicago, for the city presents hundreds of arts events, large and small, through the course of a year.
"I've got to wrap my mind around an enormous amount of programming that's being produced in both departments," says Boone.
Moreover, Boone realizes she'll need to form a unified vision for the non-profit arts in Chicago – and how city government can use its shrinking budget to promote it.
Those who have worked with Boone during her career in the arts believe she's up to the task.
"She knows the arts, she knows the artists, she's got an incisive mind, she's straightforward," says David Hawkanson, executive director of Steppenwolf Theatre Company.
"She is a collaborator – she believes hugely in institutions working together, artists working together, people working together," says Malik Gillani, founding executive director of the Silk Road Theatre Project.
"Michelle's greatest asset is her knowledge of how the arts are happening throughout the city, beyond the Loop," says Deepa Gupta, program officer of the Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation.
"She's got a real understanding of neighborhood-based organizations and the role individual artists play. … She's going to be that bridge-builder. She's already active and visible on the scene, and it will be great to have her in this role.
"And that's not saying anything against Lois Weisberg," adds Gupta, referencing Boone's recently resigned predecessor. "But it's a different era now, and if Rahm Emanuel is serious about not having (cultural) competition between downtown and the neighborhoods, I think he picked exactly the right person."
Not that Boone expected to find herself in this critical post.
"I was probably as surprised as you are," says Boone, with characteristic directness.
He was as popular in the locker room as he was in the stands. When his mother passed away, teammates rented a plane to attend the funeral.
He always made it a point to befriend the guys on the fringes of the roster. When someone got cut, even a nobody, he could expect a call from 54.
He threw big parties at his suburban home and invited teammates to partake in food, drink, paintball, pool, cards and table tennis.
Fiercely loyal and protective, nothing rankled 54 more than criticism of his teammates. He readily would talk about his own shortcomings but could not stand to hear about those of a teammate who had many more of them.
He would have done anything to play, including hiding concussion symptoms and taking whatever kind of needle Dr. Feelgood had in his bag.
So even though 54 never was big on speeches, whenever he did have something to say it got so quiet in the locker room you could hear a wristband drop.
Yes, this was a leader.
And this was a worthy heir to the middle linebacker throne. The scepter has been passed from legend to legend.
Initially, people wanted him to be Dick Butkus. But he wasn't the same kind of intimidator as 51.
Rodgers recalled how competitive 54 was, but he also talked at length about how they teased one another good-naturedly during breaks in the action.
They always were trying to anticipate each other's checks at the line, which put them in a game-long chess match. He said 54 sometimes would make funny faces at Rodgers across the line of scrimmage. Rodgers made fun of him once after 54's voice cracked while calling a defense.
They also have had some laughs over the time Rodgers tackled 54 after an interception in the NFC championship game.
"He plays the game with a lot of class and professionalism," Rodgers said. "He does it the right way."
Like the old school guys, 54 didn't do dancing or trash talking, and he didn't wear jewelry.
His way worked.
He won defensive rookie of the year and defensive player of the year awards, and he has been to eight Pro Bowls. The only other players to accomplish the same are Steelers defensive tackle Mean Joe Greene, Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert, Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor and former Packers cornerback Charles Woodson.
So far in his career, he has 411/2 sacks and 22 interceptions. Only one other middle linebacker in NFL history, Ray Lewis, has as many of each.