Still sinking in for LeBeau
By Teresa Varley - Steelers.com
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Another in a series of stories previewing Steelers Training Camp, presented by Xfinity.
A little over a week from now Dick LeBeau will stand on the stage at the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions and finally take his rightful place in the history of the National Football League as a Hall of Famer.
His election as a part of the Class of 2010 comes as no surprise to anyone who has played with him, against him or even for him, but for LeBeau it really still hasn’t sunk in yet.
“It really hasn’t and I don’t know when it will,” said LeBeau on Tuesday. “I still get up in the morning and pinch myself and count my blessings and say I guess I am not dreaming, I guess this is all really happening.
“I have always had a strong sense of history and that is the largest impact it has had on me, that you are going to be a piece of National Football League history forever and that makes me shake my head a little bit. I feel truly blessed. It hasn’t hit me. I’m not sure it ever will. It is 10,000 dreams come true and I count my blessings every day.”
LeBeau, who is known to the Steelers faithful as their treasured defensive coordinator, is being inducted for his playing career with the Detroit Lions from 1959-72. It was a career that included 171 consecutive games played and 62 career interceptions for 762 yards and three touchdowns.
You won’t hear him singing his own praises, though. There is no more humble man around than Dick LeBeau. If you want to know what makes LeBeau special, you have to go to those he has touched, former teammates and players he has coached.
“He is so loveable. He is Dick LeBeau,” said former Steelers cornerback and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson. “He doesn’t change for anybody. He lives in humility. The way he speaks to his students, because that is what he is doing is teaching his guys about life and football, he teaches with love, care and respect. He cares about them more than just football players. When you have conversations with him it’s not always just about football. It’s about life and the family and how are mom and dad doing. It’s about all of the things this world encompasses.
“That is why I love him so much. He cared about me more than just a football player. He taught me so much about football in teaching me about life.”
Steelers defensive players wore LeBeau’s #44 Lions jersey when they arrived to play in the 2007 Hall of Fame game, hoping to bring home the point that LeBeau belonged in the Hall.
LeBeau returned the salute this year, wearing the jersey of some of the veteran defensive players during OTAs.
“Coach Mike Tomlin on opening day of OTAs had all of the 30-something players stand up in the room. We had a good nucleus of guys; we have a good blend of youth and experienced players. He talked about the contributions these guys made to the Steelers and challenged the young guys to emulate the dedication and perseverance they displayed. "I thought to support the head coach it’s a good idea and I would wear the jersey of all of the players who are 30-something on defense. It was a way of me saying thanks to the guys who have given so much of their life to us. I was almost dumbstruck when they put on my jersey. It sure was easy for me to put theirs.”
It’s those kind of gestures that have made it so easy for players to continue to relate to LeBeau, to respect him and to constantly sing his praises. “It’s been the most humbling experience of my professional career the way my players talk about me and the way this particular group of defenders treat me and react to me,” said LeBeau. “It is absolutely the highest compliment I have ever had paid to me, the way our men respond to me and talk about me. We have a great group of defenders and that makes me a pretty good defensive coordinator. It’s all them.”
Maybe, just maybe, when he puts that gold Hall of Fame blazer on Dick LeBeau will realize, it’s all him. But don’t count on it.