Actors are used to hearing "break a leg!" before a performance, but those words strike terror in the heart of a professional football player.

"Don't say that! People keep saying that to me!" retired Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher joked Friday night just before taking the stage in the Goodman Theatre's "A Christmas Carol."

The massive football star probably could have survived just fine without the superstitious well wishes for his walk-on extra role as part of the theater's annual Make-a-Wish Night.

"He has a great deal of stage presence and charisma," said Goodman associate producer Steve Scott. "He is probably the most imposing figure in our cast, so I think he has a future in it if he wants to pursue this."

Don't count on it.                     

"All I do is walk by and say Merry Christmas, so if that's all it takes, I've got a future in it," he said.

At 6'4" and 258 pounds, Urlacher, sporting a custom-made Victorian overcoat and top hat, towered over his co-stars, including the night's real star, Make-a-Wish beneficiary 17-year-old Kenneth Schumacher.

"He's a lot bigger than he looks on TV," said Schumacher, who suffers from a heart defect that is now regulated by a pacemaker. Schumacher is a freshman at Northern Illinois University and hopes to eventually work behind the scenes in theater.  

This is the seventh year the Goodman has hosted a celebrity and Make-a-Wish beneficiary during a performance of the annual holiday classic. Past celebrities to take the stage have included former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen, Chicago White Sox Manager Robin Ventura, NBC-5's LeeAnn Trotter and WGN-9 entertainment reporter host Dean Richards.

While Urlacher is fine-tuning his acting chops, Bears fans are eagerly anticipating the biggest football game of the year: Sunday's Bears vs. Packers battle for a spot in the playoffs. Naturally, reporters asked Urlacher who will win the game.

"Whoever scores more points," he said, stating the obvious and noting that he has no intention of going to the game. "I'll be on the golf course somewhere warm."

Bah-humbug, indeed.