LeBeau elected to Hall

According to Dick LeBeau, every day's a great day to be alive, but this day particularly so since the Steelers' defensive coordinator was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He retired as the NFL's third all-time leading interceptor following the 1972 season, but the 38-year wait to enter the Hall of Fame has been worth it for Dick LeBeau.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive coordinator was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday along with Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, John Randle, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and Floyd Little.

Here are the thumbnails of the other six inductees:

* Grimm is the former Steelers assistant head coach, Washington Redskins guard, University of Pittsburgh center, and Southmoreland High School quarterback. In his 11-year pro career, he played mainly left guard for the Redskins and won three Super Bowl rings. He added a fourth with the Steelers after the 2005 season. Grimm was named first-team Associated Press All-Pro three times in his career.

* Jackson is the former New Orleans Saints linebacker who also played collegiately at Pitt as a bookend to Hugh Green. Still underrated to this day (an NFL executive called him "Randy Jackson" in Saturday's announcement), Jackson spent 13 seasons with the Saints and two with the San Francisco 49ers. He was named second-team AP All-Pro five times.

* Randle spent 14 years as a defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks. He was named first-team AP All-Pro six times.

* Rice played for 20 years in the NFL, 15 with the 49ers, and is considered by some to be the greatest player of all time. He's the NFL's all-time receptions and touchdowns leader. Rice was named first-team AP All-Pro 10 times.

* Smith, who along with Rice made the Hall in his first year of eligibility, spent 15 years in the league, 13 with the Dallas Cowboys, and is the NFL's all-time leading rusher. Smith was named first-team AP All-Pro four times.

* Little, like LeBeau a Seniors Committee nominee, played with the Denver Broncos for nine seasons and led the AFL in rushing twice. The story in Pittsburgh, though, is LeBeau, who still holds the NFL's all-time consecutive games record for a cornerback with 171 and ranks seventh with 62 career interceptions.

After playing 14 seasons with the Detroit Lions, LeBeau spent the next 37 years as a coach, including two stints in Pittsburgh. He was the Steelers' defensive coordinator in Super Bowls following the 1995, 2005 and 2008 seasons and will be the team's DC when he's inducted at the Hall of Fame Game to start the 2010 preseason.

LeBeau's name was mentioned as an overlooked Hall candidate last summer by Rod Woodson during Woodson's induction speech. Last night, Woodson interviewed LeBeau for NFL Network and here's what LeBeau said to the former Steelers cornerback:

"They say something worth happening is worth waiting on. It's been a long wait but thank God for people like you. I can't express how happy I am this evening

"It's been a lifelong dream really. I can't imagine anything else that could be any more rewarding for any individual who's made football – and I've been blessed to make the National Football League my life pursuit, really. And now to have my name beside all those great, great NFL players throughout history, it's a totally humbling honor and one that I do not take lightly.

"I just can't believe it, to be honest. I'm so much indebted to our current players and the players of your era who took me to the Super Bowl and kept my name current, even though it's been a long, long time since I've played. I'm so grateful to you guys. The plug you gave me last year I'm sure did not hurt anything, Rod. I thanked you before but I'll thank you again publicly."

LeBeau later said in a phone interview that he was nervous the day of the election.

"But I did great up until today," he said. "I had successfully put it out of my mind."

LeBeau will have his older brother Bob LeBeau present him at the induction ceremony in Canton.

"He's someone who set standards that I always tried to live up to," LeBeau said. "He was a great athlete, a great scholar-athlete who went on to become a great coach and administrator at the high school level. He was productive and lived an excellent life. He's been a great model to me."

LeBeau ended the interview with the line he uses to greet his defensive players every day:

"It really is a great day to be alive."


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