When former Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer was playing in the NFL, he often dreaded coming to work because of the hard-nosed presence of tough-guy center Olin Kruetz.
Hillenmeyer outlined how he was treated by Kruetz when he was filling in for injured middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
“Because he was a jerk,” Hillenmeyer told WSCR. “He was riding me because I was the third-year guy, or second-year guy, trying to fill in for a superstar. So I can relate in a sense that, you’re going to have people in your workplace that you don’t necessarily like. Olin led in a certain way. I would go to the grave acknowledging that he thought that everything he was always doing was in the best interest of the team.
"I don’t want that to come across like I’m admonishing him or saying that he was a bad leader. Because he was a great leader, but at the same time, when you have a room full of alpha males who were all the best player on their high school teams and one of the best players on their college team, to get everyone to buy in and fall into line, you need people that take leadership roles in an aggressive way like that.”
Hillenmeyer suggested that former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and former Bears coach Lovie Smith approved of Kruetz's results as a team leader.
“If you’re [former Bears General Manager] Jerry Angelo or you’re [former Bears coach] Lovie Smith, as much as you might not approve of some of the methods, you like the results,” Hillenmeyer said. “People were going to come to OTAs and they weren’t going to have loose lips with the media, they weren’t going to do a lot of things to damage the locker room – not because they didn’t want to, but because they were scared of Olin. You need guys like that in the locker room, and coaches tend to just let it happen unless there’s something egregious going on that’s right under their nose.”
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Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun.