Know Your Enemy: The legacy of No. 44 at New Mexico

·6 min read

Brian Keith Urlacher was born on May 25, 1978, in Pasco, Washington. His parents divorced when he was only seven years old, which led his mother to move him, his brother, and his sister to Lovington, New Mexico to be close to her parents.

He attended Lovington High School and starred as a linebacker, wide receiver, running back, and return specialist as he led the Lovington Wildcats to a 14-0 record and a Class 3A State Championship while catching 61 passes for 15 TDs, returning 4 punts and 2 kickoffs for TDs, and rushing for 2 more TDs.

While in Lovington, Urlacher learned about the value of hard work from his mother, Lavoyda Lynne Lenard.

When we first moved to Lovington, we had nothing. No, that’s not true. We had each other. But when we first moved there, my mom didn’t have a job. Not to worry, though. My mother was the hardest-working person I’ve ever known. She always found a way to provide for the three of us, even if that meant working three jobs at a time, from cleaning houses to being a grocery store clerk. She was never too proud to take a job if it meant she would be able to provide for us.

I believe there’s a misconception that I grew up with privilege or I had it easy. Quite the opposite, actually. I began working when I was 12 years old, pushing my lawnmower around town mowing yards. I later on worked in the oil fields of Lovington. When I went off to college, a lumberyard an Albuquerque. My mother definitely taught me the importance of learning my way.

After graduating from Lovington, Urlacher signed with New Mexico where he starred as a wide receiver, linebacker, free safety and punt/kick returner. As a senior, he earned First Team All-America selections from Walter Camp, Football Writers Association of America and the Associated Press. He was a second-team choice by The Sporting News and Football News.

His great play as a Lobo led to Urlacher being selected as the ninth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. The rest is history.

He became one of the greatest linebackers of all time and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. His No. 44 uniform was retired at New Mexico. That is, until 2021.

On Aug. 30, 2021, Lobos coach, Danny Gonzales chose to bring the legendary No. 44 out of retirement.

“This is all about protecting the past, the present, and the future of Lobo football,” Gonzales said at the time after gaining approval from Urlacher. “The plan is to use those numbers because they need to be celebrated.”

So, who would coach Gonzales choose to wear the number? Linebacker Reco Hannah. As someone who knows a little bit about Hannah, let me inform all of you that the resemblances he shares with Urlacher are uncanny.

Hannah went to Randolph County High School in Wedowee, Alabama, where he starred as a linebacker, running back and return man. If the RCHS Tigers needed him to do something, he would do it. He would even throw a pass if he needed to.

During his senior season at Randolph County, Hannah was one of the best running backs in the state, carrying the ball 199 times for 2008 yards and 31 touchdowns along with 13 receptions for 353 yards. On defense, he had 102 total tackles (97 solo), six sacks, and five interceptions. The Tigers finished the season 13-1 with a loss to the Fyffe Red Devils in the 2A State Semifinals.

Coming from a small school, Hannah didn’t hold a lot of offers out of high school, much like Urlacher. He wanted to play Division I college football one day, and he believed he was talented enough to do it. So, he took a bet on himself. He left Sweet Home Alabama and headed to Highland, Kansas, where he starred for the JUCO Highland Scotties, but the move wasn’t easy.

Hannah faced a lot of adversity when he got to Highland.

“Starting out I won’t say my life was rough but it was pretty rough. My uncle really got me starting to play football so that started with him. I took the JUCO route and went to Highland and my freshman year wasn’t that good as I had to have emergency surgery. It was pretty hard my first year at Highland but I overcame it. My friends backed my up and gave me support to just move on with my life and football,”

“I’m more of a guy that is resilient; I’m more of guy that likes adversity. It’s just a setback for a major comeback,”

Like Urlacher, Hannah’s life wasn’t always easy. He overcame a lot of trials and tribulations to get where he is. He embraced the everyday grind of college football. When times were tough and his back was against a wall, he never quit. To some, he’s just a kid from Rock Mills, Alabama; but to the people that know him, he’s much more than that. He is a leader on and off the football field and he embodies everything it means to be a New Mexico Lobo.

He’s a role model for all of the kids coming through the Randolph County School System. In this job, I don’t often get the chance to spotlight a kid I am familiar with and actually watched because there aren’t many kids that go D1 here. I was at Ron Watters Field watching him run through Class 2A.

I’ve watched him work tirelessly because he believed in himself. Reco beat the odds and never gave up on his dreams. Sure, I’ll be covering the game for LSU this Saturday, but I will definitely be cheering for the hometown kid that is wearing the legendary No. 44.

“Highland has taught me a lot about hard work and about preserving through the hard times,” Hannah said. “I’m a firm believer in “saying less and doing more.” If you have a dream go chase it; even if you don’t play a sport, chase your dreams and goals.”

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

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Story originally appeared on LSU Tigers Wire