WEST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — A linebacker with the Chicago Bears from 2000 to 2012, Brian Urlacher carried on the tradition of great defensive players for the Bears.

He was in Peoria Friday night at Crusens on Farmington Road, signing autographs for fans at a Circa Sportsbook event. It was billed as the “Ultimate Football Watch Party”, and the NFL great was at the bar from 6 to 8 p.m., interacting with fans and taking pictures.

For Peoria resident and Bears fan Joseph Carrington, it was a surreal experience to see his childhood icon.

“We talked for probably two, three minutes, unprompted about how he’s doing, and he liked my shirt and complimented it, so it was great,” he said.

Tammy Panier has been a Bears fan her entire life, and said meeting Urlacher was on her bucket list.

“He’s got to be the best defensive player in the NFL, not just the Chicago Bears but the NFL. We want him back as a defensive coach,” she said.

Another fan named Seth appreciated seeing Urlacher visit Central Illinois.

“When I was growing up, all the neighborhood kids wanted to be Brian Urlacher when we played backyard football games,” he said.

Urlacher was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. The event was hosted by Circa Sportsbook, which recently launched in Illinois.