ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Brian Urlacher, an under-recruited kid from Lovington, went on to become one of the greatest University of New Mexico football players of all time.
Almost 14 years after he made his last tackle for the Lobos, he’ll be honored during the Lobos’ Nov. 8 football game against Air Force at University Stadium.
The university will retire Urlacher’s jersey, and all future UNM football players will need special permission from the head coach to wear his UNM No. 44.
Greg Archuleta, UNM’s media relations specialist for football, says it has been decided not to retire outright Urlacher’s No. 44, or any more numbers, because of the size of a college football roster. But the significance of retiring the jersey without the number, UNM isn’t making clear.
The school has retired three football jersey numbers, all in the 40s: Don Perkins’ No. 43, Bobby Santiago’s No. 42 and Mike Williams’ 40. Those numbers cannot be worn by anyone else.
Perkins played for UNM from 1957-59, Santiago from 1960-62, Williams from 1975-78. All three were running backs.
Urlacher is expected to attend the Air Force game. His jersey will be showcased with those of Williams, Santiago and Perkins in a new display at University Stadium.
In a UNM news release, Lobos football coach Bob Davie said the honors to be bestowed on Urlacher on Nov. 8 are more than appropriate.
“Brian Urlacher has been the most recognizable ambassador for Lobo football for more than a decade because of the level of excellence he has achieved,” Davie said. “We owe Brian a tremendous debt of gratitude, and we are excited to honor his accomplishments as a Lobo.”
Urlacher, 35, was a multisport star at Lovington High before enrolling at UNM in 1996. After two years at linebacker, he became the “lobo” safety in coach Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 defense.
It was a near-perfect fit. Urlacher holds UNM’s single-season record for tackles, with 178, established in 1998.
He was a consensus All-American as a senior in 1999.
He ranks fourth all-time in career tackles with 442, though he didn’t become a full-time starter until his junior year.
Urlacher went on to play 13 seasons for the Chicago Bears, retiring after the 2012 season. He was an All-Pro selection five times and was named to eight Pro Bowls.