Hour at hand for the great Dick LeBeau

CANTON -- Dick LeBeau's problem tonight at his induction will be "to take 52 years in the National Football League and condense it to 10 minutes." But at Friday's press conference, he had much more time. Here's the transcript:

Dick LeBeau, defensive coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: What's it like to step outside of the coaching realm into that room with all of these Hall of Famers?

A: One thing that's pretty neat is as I look around in there, 99.9 percent of those people in there, I've either played against or coached against. Not a whole lot of people on the planet can say that so I feel very blessed to have been active in the National Football League that many years. As I talk to these guys, I can recall their careers and maybe battles that I've had with them and certainly strat sessions that we've had trying to defense them and things of that nature. It's just neat. I don't know any other adjective to put on it, to really have a personal acquaintance with all these guys. Every now and then I stop and say, ‘Oh wait a minute, I'm going to be one of them.' That's pretty neat.

Q: Did being here ever become a priority for you?

A: Well, I don't think those are things that you ever think about. I don't know anyone who goes around saying, ‘Oh, I should be in the Hall of Fame.' I was proud of the body of work that I had. My numbers I thought spoke for themself. If it qualified me, great. If it didn't, I knew that I had a great career. I was ready to live either way. I think it's great that the Hall of Fame Committee had in place a vehicle which could go back and get some older guys like myself and Floyd Little, who, for whatever the reason kind of slipped through the cracks right after their playing careers. It turned out I'm just so honored to be going in as a player. That was meaningful to me.

Q: Why did you pick your brother Bob to be your presenter?

A: That was a no-brainer. My mom and my dad created the environment for me to be in this situation that I'm in right now, and my brother was a perfect example of how to conduct your life professionally and honestly. He's three years older than me and he's been a great mentor for me.

Q: Does being here as a Seniors candidate make you more grateful to be here?

A: I think in life in general you tend to appreciate things a little bit more when you've been around the sun a few more times.

Q: What do you think of going in with Russ Grimm, a guy you've coached with?

A: That is the neatest thing of all. I've always admired Russ's ability. He's a great coach, good friend. To actually be in the same class with a good friend of yours, I mean that is rare. Russ is Russ. It's just great to see him at every one of these functions. If you wrote a script, it couldn't have been any better for me.

Q: Does being from Ohio and being an Ohio State graduate make it more special coming up the road a bit to be enshrined?

A: Well, even beyond that, I've always had a great sense of history. I've been to the Hall of Fame almost since they opened it. I've been here many times. I love to walk through there and look at the contributions that the founding fathers of the league made and what they went through and the early players and the history of this league. You think of the years and the great, great athletes who've come down the line and to actually be a part of that, yeah, it's very special to an Ohio boy.

Q: It has to be great that all the Steelers are coming to see this.

A: That is the most flattering thing I believe that's ever happened in my life. I mean, they're bringing the whole organization. How cool is that?

Q: What would Woody Hayes say about this honor?

A: Woody'd probably say, ‘LeBeau, you need to cut your hair.'

Q: With so many Dallas fans here, is the Steelers' arrival here Pittsburgh's way of making sure Dallas doesn't take over this city?

A: Well, I think we'll have a few people from Cincinnati here, and Ohio State territory, and I know we're going to have some Pittsburgh fans over here. I think there'll be some LeBeau fans over here.

Q: Has Mike Brown conveyed any thoughts to you?

A: Mike has been a good friend for a long time. I'm very flattered at the many compliments that he's paid me. I'm proud of my association with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Brown family. I'm looking forward to seeing him up here this weekend.

Q: You have high school classmates coming here, too. What does that mean to you?

A: Oh, I think we're going to have half of London up here, really, which is a good thing. That's one of the joys and blessings of growing up in a small town. You become fairly intimate and close with almost everyone in the town. Our high school class has gotten together every five years. I make it when I can. There's going to be a good number of those guys up here and it's going to be good to see them, too.

Q: How does it feel to be speaking first tomorrow?

A: I didn't know I was speaking first. As far as I'm concerned, the sooner the better.

Q: You're an Ohio guy who has the entire Pittsburgh franchise coming over. What does it mean to you?

A: It means everything in the world professionally. What could you ever ask for? You would never ask for this, let alone ask for more. Again, I'm just trying to sit back and comprehend what a tremendous honor that is to have all the Steeler franchise coming over. It's great.

Q: Have you had a chance to go over your speech in the last week?

A: I've been kind of letting it bounce around. They're wanting me to take 52 years in the National Football League and condense it to 10 minutes. That's the only problem I'm having. That's an awful lot of years, but I think I'll come close to it.

Q: How long has it taken you to write it?

A: I haven't been writing so much as just outlining.

Q: What part of your career are you most proud of?

A: Hundred and seventy-one consecutive starts without missing a game.

Q: Rod Woodson and others have spoken up for your candidacy over the last few years. What does that kind of support from your former players mean to you?

A: It means everything. In a way it's a Hall of Fame of its own, to be received and spoken of by your players like that. I could never thank them enough. They've been a pretty good public relations committee to me.

Q: With the tent and the interview tables and the reporters, does this remind you of a Super Bowl?

A: It's a different thing. It's a great thing professionally. A Super Bowl is totally team. This is just something that's kind of a blessing. You know, I don't have to worry about somebody beating us deep in this one. We're in and they're not going to kick us out. I think this is very impactful, like a Super Bowl win is, but a little bit less stressful.

Q: What's it like to be included in the same class with Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, two guys you probably stressed about in preparation?

A: Well they're two of the very best ever and I think it is an honor to go in with them. And as we said earlier, Russ Grimm is a personal friend of mine. Floyd Little and I spoke several times after we were nominated and we both were both pulling for each other to get in. John Randle and the whole class, it's just a great, great class. It's a large class and I'm proud of that. I think our numbers speak for themselves.

Q: What was your brother Bob's reaction when you chose him as your presenter?

A: I don't know. You'd have to ask my brother. To me, it was a no-brainer. There was never any doubt that if I ever got to this point it was going to be my brother.

Q: Is he showing any signs of nerves?

A: No, he's an old school educator and principal, so he's used to talking. He'll do great.

Q: What was it like facing Floyd Little?

A: Floyd Little was a great player. His Hall of Fame credentials, when you look at his numbers, you don't have to defend him being in here. Lem Barney, my teammate whom I've gotten to see more in the last few days than I have in the last 30 years, we've had fun with Floyd, telling him he never could've gotten away from us, one side or the other. We've had a lot of fun doing that type of stuff. But Floyd Little was a Hall of Fame running back.

Q: What can you say about Ricky Jackson?

A: He's one of the great pass-rushers ever. Great competitor. I'd have liked to have had him in my zone blitz scheme. He would've been perfect in that. He was a great player. He was tenacious and had that God-given quickness and athletic ability. He made a lot of what I call persistent sacks. He just kept coming. He never, never quit. The play was never over for Ricky. And the game was never over. He'd play as hard on the last down as he did the first and the score didn't matter.

Q: What have the past seven months been like since you found out you're going into the Hall of Fame?

A: Well, they've been a bit foggy to be totally honest with you. It's down to maybe every three days now; for a while it was every day that I'd get up and pinch myself to make sure I'm not still dreaming. I'm glad I've had a job and a training camp to prepare for and coaching sessions, things of that nature to help keep my mind occupied. But you can't help but do a little day dreaming. It's been great.

Q: How would Dick LeBeau the coach use Dick LeBeau the player in one of your schemes?

A: I think Dick LeBeau the player would've done very well in the zone blitz concept. I don't know for sure, but I heard he was pretty good at getting the ball. He has a couple interceptions. Zone blitz is going to put a little pressure on the quarterback and make him throw it a little quicker and hopefully throw a quacker. Those were the kind of balls that Dick LeBeau might pick off.

Q: Could Dick LeBeau ‘get them on the ground'?

A: Well let's say this: I kept my job for 14 years, so I did something right.

Q: How would you fare today as a player?

A: I tell my guys all the time I've got 62 interceptions and if I'd have kept all of them that I should've caught I'd have set every record there was. I probably dropped more than I caught. Of course, I don't tell my guys that too often, but they throw about three times as much today than they did; that would've given me about 186 picks, so I'd have done all right.

Q: Rod Woodson's a coaching intern with the Bengals. If he wants to go into coaching, how do you think he'd do?

A: No doubt he'd be great. Rod Woodson would be a great coach. He was very intuitive and instinctive. No question he had the athletic ability, but he had the overall instincts of the game, and those are things that former players who see things through the eye of those guys that are on the field can convey and I think shortcut a little bit the learning process for young players coming in the league. No doubt in my mind that Rod Woodson would be a great coach.

Q: Had he ever discussed coaching with you?

A: Actually Rod and I talk from time to time. He expressed to me some time ago that he was thinking about maybe going into coaching, and I said, ‘Rod, with the knowledge you have and what you've achieved with your career, you would be an absolute blessing to any young player coming in. And everything that you've accumulated is one of the reasons I went into coaching.' When you're done playing, who do you share this knowledge with? If you're not coaching, you share it with no one.

Q: Would you like to be remembered as Dick LeBeau the Hall of Fame coach? Or Dick LeBeau the Hall of Fame player?

A: That really is a tough one. I got to coach 38 years and only got to play 14, so I know a little bit more about the coaching side of it. If you said there can only be one, I'd say give me Dick LeBeau the player. I'm proud of that. I'm proud I'm going in as a Detroit Lion. I'm very proud of my coaching career. It would be a choice that I'd never truly want to make, but if I had to, I'd say let me go in as a player.

Q: You've coached a lot of great players and played with a lot of great players. Who would you like to see in the Hall of Fame next year?

A: I don't really look at athletes as ‘Oh, well, some day he belongs in the Hall of Fame.' Truly, Rod Woodson, he was going to be in the Hall of Fame. When you were coaching him, you knew he was that special athlete. Probably Troy's going to be there. But there are so many what-ifs that can happen in your career. I don't ever really think about that with the individuals that I coach.

Q: Did Don Coryell have any influence on you at all?

A: Well, they called him ‘Air Coryell' and he was part of the West Coast philosophy as it evolved from Bill Walsh. Those guys were the quick-rhythm throwers. The run-and-shoot from Mouse Davis came from the same era and opened the game up. That's really what the offenses have evolved to today, so yeah they forced defenses, all of us, to adjust what we do because they came up with some stuff that worked against the way they were doing it back in those days.

Q: How many times this year have you broken your age in golf?

A: I did it 20 times this year, and I did it 24 the year before. That seemed wrong to me because I had another stroke to work with this year. It is what it is. Maybe I've played harder courses this year.

Q: Is there justification now that you were a great player, not just a great coach?

A: Well the greatest thing about all this is the way I banter with my players. And I always intertwine my own record into everything I'm talking to them about. Quite often James Farrior and Troy Polamalu and James Harrison will look at me with that somewhat jaundiced, ‘Did this guy ever play?' This will certainly substantiate to them that I did actually play on the field.

Q: You played a physical brand before the rules changed in 1978. How did you implement that into your coaching?

A: What I learned through trial and error through my career, how I taught my defensive backs when I was a defensive backs coach, I didn't have to change at all with that rule. We just had to take away that second bump down the field, but the angles and the techniques and the footwork, they haven't changed at all.

Q: How has that rule made the game evolve?

A: It's opened the game up for the offense. Used to be a little risky for the tight end to go down 10 yards and cut over the middle. He drew a lot of attention; now you can't touch him and that's a nice weapon for the quarterback to have. If that outside guy's not there, he can get it down there to the tight end for a high percentage completion and move the sticks on you and get some more downs.

Q: When did you find out the Steelers were going to come?

A: I didn't realize they were all coming until about the second day of training camp. I'm still trying to come to grasp with the reality that they're shutting the whole darn place down for me. What a tremendous compliment that is. I mean, I don't know. How do you say thanks for that?

Q: Were you dumbfounded?

A: I still am a little bit, to be honest with you. I probably always will be. I don't know that that's ever been done.


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