HAMMOND | Brian Urlacher's first appearance at The Times Region Roundball Rumble was as typical as that of any other high school basketball fan.
Before the Gavit-Morton game at the Hammond Civic Center, the Bears' All-Pro middle linebacker spilled some nachos that fell down all over his jeans, white long-sleeved shirt and shoes. He wasn't happy about that little aspect of Hoosier Hysteria.
Urlacher came to support Brandon Ridenour, whom he grew up with in Lovington, N.M. He even stood up in the Gavit coach's wedding.
"We played 'Little Dribblers' together in third grade," said Urlacher, who had a night off thanks to the Bears' bye in this weekend's NFL playoffs.
"I love watching Brandon coach," Urlacher said. "I love watching him get pissed."
Ridenour played quarterback on Lovington High School's Class 3A state championship football team.
The two have been good friends ever since. Urlacher went to several games when Ridenour was coaching at Calumet High School. He said he made it to five Gladiators' games last year due to the injury that sidelined him for all but one Bears game.
"If I wasn't getting pissed he'd do something to try to agitate me," Ridenour said. "Like: Why don't you practice free throws more?'"
The two were teammates on Lovington's basketball team, too. Urlacher had averaged 22 points and 13 rebounds a game at Lovington his senior year.
Ridenour said when Urlacher went to the University of New Mexico, his athleticism and hoops game were so good that men's basketball coach Dave Bliss tried to get the standout linebacker to play both sports.
Ridenour attends every Bears home game. But Monday night was the first time Urlacher got to watch his old buddy's team play this season. A healthy and successful season in Chicago made the get-togethers more difficult.
"I'm glad he comes out and supports me," Ridenour said. "I know it means a lot to the kids."
Gavit senior Alvin Johnson had seen Urlacher in the stands a lot last year, but it didn't take away from the experience Monday night.
"I'd never seen a real football player before," Johnson said. "This is my third time seeing him. It makes you try to do good. You don't want to play bad with him watching."
All kidding aside, Urlacher said he is not surprised that Ridenour's teams are always improving and compete at a high level.
"Brandon knows basketball, there isn't any question about that," Urlacher said. "His uncle was a basketball coach, and I know he knows what he's doing."
Urlacher called ahead to get a parking pass and tickets for the game. He said before the game he was excited to be in the Hammond Civic Center, beyond watching Ridenour's team play.
"I love watching high school basketball," Urlacher said. "We both played and it's something nice to do since we have a little break."
But Urlacher said that before the nachos fell.