Bears great Brian Urlacher a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist

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Former Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist. (AP)

Brian Urlacher’s Pro Football Hall of Fame fate will be decided the day before the Super Bowl.

As expected, the former Bears middle linebacker was among the 15 finalists selected Tuesday night. The selection committee can vote for up to five modern-era finalists Feb. 3 in Minneapolis. Finalists must receive 80 percent of the vote to get in.

Urlacher was named one of the 27 semifinalists in November after the class was whittled down from the original 108-person list.

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Whether Urlacher is a first-ballot choice is complicated by the fact he might not be the best middle linebacker in the class. Former Ravens great Ray Lewis also is in his first year of eligibility. Lewis might be the only middle linebacker of his generation who could rival Urlacher, who went to eight Pro Bowls and was a four-time first-team All-Pro from 2000 to ’12.

Like Lewis, Urlacher spent his entire career with the same team. After being drafted No. 9 overall out of New Mexico, Urlacher recorded 41½ sacks, 22 interceptions and 15 fumble recoveries. He was the centerpiece of Lovie Smith’s cover-2 defense.

Urlacher, Lewis, guard Steve Hutchinson and receiver Randy Moss are finalists in their first year of eligibility. Moss and fellow receiver Terrell Owens are favorites for inclusion.

The others on the list include: tackles Tony Boselli and Joe Jacoby; cornerback Everson Walls and Ty Law; safeties Brian Dawkins and John Lynch; receiver Isaac Bruce; running back Edgerrin James; guard Alan Faneca; and center Kevin Mawae. Mawae was on John Fox’s staff with the Bears last year.

Bears inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski grew up admiring Urlacher even before the second-year player, like the former Bears great, switched from safety to linebacker.

“He was a guy that made plays and was excited and was fun to watch,” Kwiatkoski said Monday. “It was something I did watch. As I made that transition to linebacker, I went back and looked at his old stuff. He’s a great player. Being in Chicago, he’s the face of the Bears — one of them. For him to be a Hall of Famer, I think it would be 100 percent deserving.”

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Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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