Chasing a dream

Although #37 wasn't listed on the official Bears roster for this weekend's mini-camp, he was very much the focus of media attention during Friday morning's session. Since this particular player's last name happens to be Urlacher, the heightened interest is easy to understand.

"We asked several local college players to this year's mini camp," said Bears head coach Dick Jauron. "You can imagine just how important this opportunity is for them. The benefit to us is that it gives our coaching staff an intensive three-day time period to watch them on the field and to see what they can do."

Despite not being drafted, Urlacher hasn't given up quite yet on a chance to join a team.

"I've been working towards this for years," Casey said. "Mini-camp is a great chance to see what the pros expect and what the skill level of the players tends to be. This is a very different situation from college ball."

Was Casey's invitation the result of some pressure on the Bears staff from big brother Brian?

"No, in fact, it was exactly the opposite," Jauron said. "As you can imagine, this situation is under intense scrutiny. If anything, having that last name could ultimately be a handicap for Casey. You can be sure that he is here because he deserves to be. Casey wants to be judged on his own merits. Brian has never asked for extra favors, and neither has Casey."

Casey has spent the past three years playing inside linebacker, leading the team in tackles each year. He is the program's career record-holder with 43 tackles for loss and served as defensive captain. He was a three-time first-team all-conference selection and earned all-region as well as all-American honors in 2002. Recently, he has spent considerable time working out as a fullback.

"Of course there is pressure on me right now," he said. "That would be the case for anybody who wants to become a rookie in the National Football League. The competition here for roster slots is tremendous. There are a lot of good players already on the squad as well as those who have come in from the draft. What I am doing now is taking this chance to come in and to show the Bears once more what I can do."

What was it like to put on a Bears jersey?

"It was great. I loved it," Casey said. "There was a lot of running around, then a lot of just standing there learning. It was really fun. I have to admit, though, that I fell asleep studying the Bears playbook last night. There's a lot of stuff in there. I asked Brian just how much he had studied that playbook. He said ‘not at all' but I don't really believe that."

Does Casey feel that he deserves a chance to join the Bears?

"A lot of people have been asking if I am here just because Brian pulled some strings. The answer to that is a definite no. I had a great college career. I feel that I deserve to be here just as much as anybody else. I had a lot of feelers from other teams. I heard from t he Patriots. I heard from the Packers. I felt that the Bears would be by far the best fit for me. I've been talking to one of the Bears scouts for over two years now. Obviously I know a lot of the players. I feel very comfortable here right now."

Urlacher also feels that his versatility on both offense and defense puts him in a unique position to contribute to the team.

"I played linebacker in college and did very well at that position, I also play halfback," he said. "I feel that I could work well wherever I'm needed."

Lake Forest College assistant football coach Brent Becker watched intently from the sidelines as Urlacher and his teammate Pat Dunne went through their drills.

"This is the first time that the Foresters have had two players trying to get into the professional level," Becker said. "Casey is here of course, and we also have Dunne who is trying out as a punter. Pat has been our program's most prolific kicker with 30 field goals, 86 extra points, and 176 career points, all school records. This is a very exciting day for these two players and something that all of our team will be following with great interest."

The best case scenario would be for Urlacher to get a call in the near future from the Bears coaching staff asking for his services. But what if that all-important call never comes?

"If Sunday is the last time I ever strap it up and play football then I'm OK with that," Casey said. "Then I'll live my football dreams vicariously through Brian. I'm happy to do that. He's a great player. For me not to be playing would be a disappointment but definitely not the end of the world. I know that I've done everything possible to make it to the NFL. If it happens, I'd be thrilled. If not, I can go on with my life."

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