ORLANDO, Fla. — When Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks played the popular Madden video game in high school, Brian Urlacher was his guy.
‘‘He was dominant on Madden, by the way, especially in ’06 and ’07, that time,’’ Hicks said. ‘‘It’s been fun getting to know somebody of his status.’’
Those years certainly were memorable ones for the Bears. Urlacher was in his prime. In January 2006, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for his outstanding 2005 season.
The Bears then went 13-3 in 2006, eventually losing to Peyton Manning and the Colts in Super Bowl XLI on Feb. 4, 2007.
‘‘That just tells me how old I am,’’ Urlacher said of Hicks playing with him in Madden. ‘‘It’s funny, though. If I had to [pick] someone to be on defense, I would be Akiem Hicks. That dude just wrecks shop.’’
As a captain of the NFC team in the Pro Bowl, Urlacher caught himself reminiscing about the good ol’ days as he interacted with the Bears’ seven Pro Bowl players: Hicks, safety Eddie Jackson, cornerback Kyle Fuller, running back Tarik Cohen, left tackle Charles Leno Jr., center Cody Whitehair and quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
The Bears are relevant again. They’re back. And Urlacher was ecstatic to be part of that vibe for a few days in Florida.
‘‘Just watching them at practice, so many of these guys . . . would fit in with our team,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘Their personalities are great. They have fun. They take it serious, but they all are having a good time. But Akiem, especially, would fit in with our defense because he has a greaaaaat time.’’
One difference from the Bears teams Urlacher played on is that the current version has a quarterback the entire organization believes in. Urlacher played with Jim Miller, Shane Matthews, Kordell Stewart, Craig Krenzel, Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton, Brian Griese and Jay Cutler.
There are more, too, but it’s tough to remember them all.
Trubisky is different because of the hope and potential he represents. Urlacher, a Hall of Fame linebacker, said he sees a true franchise quarterback.
‘‘We do have one,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘Beyond the way he plays, I love the way he handles himself. You watch his interviews, and when they win, who does he give credit to? Everybody else. When they lose, he takes the heat. That’s a leader right there. Being a quarterback, you’re a leader of the team. That’s the way it’s going to be, especially if you’re a good one. He takes that on. [He] puts it on his shoulders.’’
He also saw also how well Trubisky played in his first season under coach Matt Nagy.
‘‘He threw the ball great this year,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘His running ability is pretty damn good, as well. But I think with him and Nagy together, they’re just going to keep getting better and better. It’s going to be a fun combination to watch.’’
The Bears’ defense was fun to watch this season, too.
‘‘The picks, the fumbles, the sacks,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘And not just that, but they played hard.’’
Rookie linebacker Roquan Smith was a part of that. He’s carrying on the tradition Urlacher was a part of in his 13 seasons with the Bears.
‘‘He’s just going to get better and better, as well,’’ Urlacher said.
Add it all up, and one of the greatest Bears is a fan again.
‘‘I look forward to watching them play now,’’ Urlacher said. ‘‘What time do they play? What channel? My wife and I, we look for their games now. I couldn’t always say that in the last couple of years.
‘‘Just the whole excitement with coach Nagy and the players we have . . . they’re fun to watch all the way around. The fan in me is excited about the future.’’