Urlacher deserving of 54-gun salute

Angelo said if he were putting middle linebackers on an all-time draft board, he would take 54 third, behind only Lewis and Butkus.

The only way 54's Bears career could have been better is if he would have accepted a one-year deal at a price that he thought was below market value, and then announced this would be it. It would have been a valiant thing to do, his last act of humility and sacrifice.

He could have gone on a farewell tour and relived all that made him what he was.

He would have received long, heartfelt standing ovations, even in unfriendly places like Lambeau Field. He would have been presented with things to hang on his walls and park in his garages.

We would have appreciated him like he was young again. We would not have wanted it to end.

The curtain will not fall so poetically now.

But someday, when we think of 54, our minds will take us back to a time when those jerseys were everywhere. When he seemed too big for the playing field. When everyone with a football under his arm was too slow to run away from him.

That is the 54 we will remember.

Big bare arms in the dead of winter. Steam rising from his now bald scalp. Throwing his head back and laughing. Loving the game.

That is the 54 we will celebrate.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei

CHICAGO

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