Urlacher success surprises former opponents

By Mickey Winfield: Freedom Newspapers

Brian Urlacher helped the Lovington Wildcats go undefeated and win the Class 3A state football title in his senior season.

However, area players and coaches who faced Urlacher while he was at Lovington are mildly surprised he became an NFL superstar with the Chicago Bears.

The five-time All-Pro middle linebacker makes his Super Bowl debut Sunday when Chicago takes on Indianapolis.

Arturo Ontiveros was a Portales Rams senior in 1993 when Urlacher was a sophomore.

“He was about 5-foot-11 and probably about 170 pounds,” Ontiveros said. “He was the punt returner and he played receiver, and on defense he was a cornerback.”

Ontiveros said even though Urlacher didn’t play much as a sophomore, when he did play he made the most of it.

“They put him in the backfield a few times to catch some passes, and then on special teams is where he tended to shine.”

Alex Ontiveros, Arturo’s brother, played for the Rams against Urlacher in 1995 when both were seniors.

“He was a big, physical kid,” Alex Ontiveros said. “For as big as he was, he could move really well. (He was) one of the best receivers in the state.

“He was a monster. When he played free safety on defense, you definitely knew where he was at on the field.”

Alex vividly recalls one collision he had with the future NFL linebacker.

“There was one play where I went to hit him,” he said. “He caught a drag from the other side of the field, and he was coming to my side and I remember running into him. I only weighed about 150 pounds at the most, and it felt like he was made of steel when I hit him.”

Artesia coach Cooper Henderson saw something special in Urlacher when the Wildcats beat Artesia in 1995, but noted that nobody could have predicted his success.

“He definitely stood out,” Henderson said. “It was a real close ball game, and he made the big play that made the difference in the game. He caught a ball late in the game that won it for Lovington. I think he’s been a standout since high school, but as far as saying that someone could picture him where he is today, I don’t think you could have seen that. He had a good frame, but it wasn’t anywhere close to where it is today.”

Alex Ontiveros agreed.

“At the time, I figured he’d go to college. I didn’t know how good he’d become,” he said.