ALL ACCESS: A lot of networks do TV interviews, but have you ever wanted to know the juicy details that never make air? You can tell a lot about who people really are when the cameras aren’t rolling. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the interview with Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher.
I couldn’t wait to write this column about this week’s episode of “PROfiles” featuring Brian Urlacher. I had two stories that I couldn’t wait to share about Brian that I knew would completely change the perception you have of him. I say that with extreme confidence because I have a feeling your perception of Brian is the same one I had before I got to know him ... aloof and standoffish. Let me just say in over 15 years of covering sports, I have never been more wrong about a player or a person than I was about Brian Urlacher.
So, back to those two stories. They are the stories I tell everyone who asks me about Brian, and considering I’m a Chicago girl, I get asked about what he’s like pretty frequently. Every time I tell these two stories I get the same reaction which basically consists of a “Huh? I had no idea he was such a great guy,” and I know you’ll feel the same way.
But here’s my problem. I’m not allowed to tell you the two stories.
Seriously. He won’t let me. The way I found out about one of the stories was by seeing a picture in Brian’s house during our shoot, one that was sent to him as a thank you for what he did for somebody else. He explained the story behind the picture to me off-camera.
Before writing this column, I texted Brian and asked him whether he would mind if I shared the story that I knew would be the story that shows what he’s truly like. He told me he’d rather I didn’t.
He explained how he didn’t do kind gestures for attention and thought it would be hypocritical if he turned around and used these two stories for just that. How could I argue?
What do you do when you’re dealing with a guy who knows his reputation is surly and standoffish, and yet won’t allow a reporter to share anecdotes that would completely change that perception? A guy who says thank you for asking (which he did) and then asks you not to spill the beans about how wonderful he is?
So there lies not only my problem, but the one that exists for everyone inside Brian’s exclusive bubble, the few he lets in. We all know how wonderful he is but we can’t go around spreading it.
While I’m an occasional visitor to the bubble, I can’t tell you how many people who have resided in it for years told me they were so happy Brian was doing this show. Because hopefully, finally, people would get to see the dirty little secret they have always known: Brian Urlacher is a great guy.
He’s also a great father. The hardest part of this show was shooting at Brian’s house and not being able to show my absolute favorite part — the pictures of his three kids. Those photos are absolutely everywhere, blanketing every inch of his walls and on tables in every room.
Where there aren’t pictures, there is “stuff.” Kids’ pottery at the kitchen table, a tea party set in the game room, plastic purple flowers in his office. You’d have no idea an NFL superstar lives in the house ... but you instantly know that a proud father does.
But Urlacher the father is yet another side we’re not allowed to show. Brian will boast about his kids all day long but he made a promise to them years ago that he would never show them on TV or include them in a picture used in an article. He knew they already have to deal with having him as a father, so he made a promise to them saying if they ever wanted to go public about him as their father, it would be by their own choice as they got older. Not his.
Our shoot began at 7:30 in the morning and we said goodbye at 8 p.m. I have never asked so much time from a player on his/her much valued off-day. Brian is the exception. He never complains and he never made us feel like we were intruding despite having eight people and three cars following him at all times. (A crew which, by the way, was from Chicago and had covered Brian for years, yet wouldn’t stop saying the entire day that they had no idea how great of a guy Brian Urlacher was).
I wanted to capture a “day in the life” which included running around with cameras rolling. That was the only thing I’ve ever heard Brian complain about — the cameras following him in public places. He’s the face of a franchise, yet he cringes when attention is drawn to him.
Despite having cameras shooting him informally all day, by the time we finished our formal interview that evening Brian checked to see if he had sweat through his shirt. Yes, he still gets extremely nervous when he does interviews and immediately turns the channel when he’s on television because he hates his voice and worries that he sounds stupid.
This “PROfiles” episode is very different from our previous episodes. With every other show we find activities for players to do. Something that each guy loves doing with the intention of showing a different side, such as Aaron Rodgers playing guitar on the beach, fishing with Kevin Kolb or producing a track with Dwight Freeney at his recording studio.
For this show, I didn’t want to do any activity with Brian. I just wanted you to spend a day with him. I don’t want you to see a side of Brian Urlacher. I want you to see Brian Urlacher ... period.
And when you do, promise me you’ll spread the word, since I’m not allowed to.
“PROfiles” with Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher appears on FSN all this week. Check your local listings.