Brian Urlacher

If Bears decide to retire more jerseys, here's who should be honored first

The Bears ended the practice of retiring jersey numbers after enshrining Mike Ditka's No. 89

NBC Universal, Inc.

When the Bears retired Mike Ditka’s No. 89 back in 2013, they also announced he would be the last player to have his jersey number enshrined in franchise history forever. The Bears have 14 numbers retired, including Ditka’s, which is tied for the Giants for the most in the NFL. If the Bears continued the practice, eventually they’d run out of numbers for everyone else. As things stand, the Bears need players to double up on numbers一 i.e. a No. 67 on offense and a No. 67 on defense一 at this point of the NFL calendar when teams are allowed to carry 90 players on the roster.

Yet, there are still plenty of other players who are deserving of the honor. If the Bears ever decided to reverse course, here are the guys who would be first in line to have their numbers retired.


Jersey retirements are reserved for players who either made a major impact for their franchise, or on the game as a whole. Hester did both. He’s the most prolific return man in NFL history with a record 21 combined return touchdowns. Hester twice led the league in punt return yards and kick return yards. He led the league in punt return scores three times, and kick return scores twice. He was named to four Pro Bowls and was a First-Team All-Pro three times. But the most memorable piece of history that Hester made was becoming the first man to return the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl for a touchdown. It’s something no one’s accomplished since, either.


Buddy Ryan’s shutdown “46” defense was named after Doug Plank, but it was Singletary who stirred the drink acting as a coach on the field. Singletary wasn’t known for being particularly big or fast, but he out-prepared everyone. Singletary is known as one of the early players to fully dedicate himself to film study and it’s been said that opposing coaches believed Singletary knew their offenses better than their own players. On the field he was a punishing tackler who was especially fearsome in run defense. Singletary twice won Defensive Player of the Year, he was a First-Team All-Pro seven times, Second-Team All-Pro twice more and was named to 10 Pro Bowls. Singletary was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.


It’s debatable where Urlacher ranks among the Bears linebacker greats, but it’s undeniable that he was the biggest and the fastest. A converted safety, Urlacher boasted incredible range in both pass defense and run defense, and that made him a star in the middle of Lovie Smith’s take on the Tampa 2. His 1,361 career tackles are a franchise record. His 22 interceptions tie Dick Butkus’ mark and trail only Doug Buffone’s 24 among all Bears linebackers. Urlacher won Rookie of the Year in 2000, Defensive Player of the Year in 2005, was named First-Team All-Pro four times, Second-Team All-Pro once and was an eight-time Pro Bowler. Urlacher was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018.


Dent will always own a piece of Bears history as the team’s first (and so far, only) Super Bowl MVP. Folks remember his 1.5 sack, two forced fumble performance in Super Bowl XX best, but he was one of the most consistently fearsome pass rushers outside that big day. Dent holds the Bears all-time sacks record with 124.5 and ranks second in forced fumbles with 34. He led the league in sacks once and led the league in forced fumbles twice and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011.


It’s impressive when a player can consistently earn All-Pro honors at one position. It’s insane when someone can do it at two positions. Hampton was a versatile defensive lineman who lined up both inside and outside, and was named to All-Pro teams at each position. He made six All-Pro teams in all, four times at DT and twice at DE. Hampton was nicknamed “Danimal” for his tenacious play and ranks third on the Bears leaderboard with 82 sacks. He could’ve had more if not for the strike-shortened 1982. Hampton set an incredible pace with nine sacks in nine games that year, so if the Bears had played a full 16-game season it’s conceivable that he would have had a chance to set a franchise single-season sacks record. Hampton got the call to the Hall of Fame in 2002.

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.

Contact Us