When Hall of Fame knocked, Bears great Brian Urlacher nervously, humbly answered

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Brian Urlacher was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (AP)

MINNEAPOLIS — In the hours before the Pro Football Hall of Fame elected its latest class Saturday, Bears great Brian Urlacher finally got nervous. He had spent months shoving the idea of being a first-ballot Hall of Famer out of his head like he did a blocking fullback in his playing days. He honestly never thought about it.

But now, as the clock ticked from 3 to 3:30 p.m., Urlacher was rattled, waiting in his hotel room for a knock from Hall of Fame president David Baker. He told his kids to stay away from the door. He hoped the phone wouldn’t ring to tell him he had been left out.

Urlacher didn’t know he accidentally had left a ‘‘Do Not Disturb’’ tag on his doorknob, something Baker ignored when he banged on the door to tell him he had made the Hall.

‘‘I don’t sit there and dwell on what’s going to happen, but I did [Saturday],’’ Urlacher, 39, said. ‘‘Luckily for me, it went the way I hoped it would.’’

The face of the franchise from 2000 to 2012, Urlacher will become the Bears’ NFL-leading 28th enshrinee Aug. 4 in Canton, Ohio. Of the 28 linebackers in the Hall, Urlacher is the Bears’ fifth. He stumped for Lance Briggs eventually to become No. 6.

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‘‘A great tradition,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘I’m happy to carry it on.’’

It’s special, he said, that he reached the pinnacle of the sport with one team.

Urlacher will be joined in the Hall by another one-team linebacker, the Ravens’ Ray Lewis. Receivers Randy Moss and Terrell Owens and safety Brian Dawkins rounded out the modern-era class. It took a 47-person selection committee, made up of media members from league markets, more than eight hours to whittle the list of 15 modern-era finalists to the final five.

The Packers’ Jerry Kramer and the Oilers’ Robert Brazile, both senior-committee players, and former Redskins and Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard, a contributor, will join them in Canton.

‘‘To get over the hump the first time, it’s pretty awesome,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘This is a great class.’’

His day grew even more surreal when he arrived at the NFL Honors awards show at the University of Minnesota. He bumped into former Packers quarterback Brett Favre, with whom he had never had an off-the-field conversation, before being joined by all Hall of Famers in

attendance on the stage.

‘‘You see that accumulation of phenomenal players, and, just, it’s amazing,’’ he said. ‘‘To be a part of that is very humbling. I never

expected to get this far in my football career.’’

Urlacher was a four-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowl player. Still, he didn’t know whether to believe friends who thought he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

‘‘I think he’s the smartest player that I’ve ever played against,’’ Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. ‘‘No one has played the position like he did, with the freedom to check in and out of coverages. And then, obviously, the talent is second to none. A guy that fast, that athletic and with those instincts . . . ’’

Former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman described a ‘‘smart as hell’’ teammate who was the whole package ‘‘going off of talent and his football IQ.’’

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, who played for the Bears in 2007-10, said Urlacher led by making everyone feel valued.

‘‘The best thing I can say about Brian is, he treated everybody in that organization — from the quarterback down to the ticket guy — the exact same,’’ Olsen said. ‘‘He made everybody feel special.’’

Raised in Lovington, New Mexico, Urlacher’s dreams grew from simply wanting a college football scholarship to thinking he could play in the NFL. Drafted No. 9 overall out of New Mexico in 2000, Urlacher was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. Five years later, he was the Defensive Player of the Year. A year after that, he led the Bears to the Super Bowl.

His athleticism helped redefine the traditionally passive cover-2 defense. Then-Bears coach Lovie Smith’s scheme required Urlacher to cover tight ends deep.

Urlacher has the rest of his life to process his place in the game. On Saturday, he was reeling.

‘‘I need to take a step back and let it settle in,’’ he said. ‘‘I think the more time away from this, I’ll be more comfortable and think about it more.’’

Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com

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