LeBeau seizes the day

LeBeau's 17 1/2-minute Hall of Fame acceptance speech, in front of the Steelers organization, was thankful, thoughtful, humorous, and inspirational.

CANTON, Ohio – The town's mayor opened the Hall of Fame induction ceremony Saturday evening by dubbing it "Dallas Cowboys Day."

But the Cowboys – in town for Sunday's Hall of Fame Game – didn't even attend the induction ceremony of their all-time greatest player, Emmitt Smith.

No, the team in attendance – the only franchise anyone here could remember showing up en masse for an induction – was the Pittsburgh Steelers. They were here for Dick LeBeau Day. LeBeau summed up well his feelings about the gesture during his press conference the previous day.

"I'm still trying to come to grasp with the reality that they're shutting the whole darn place down for me," LeBeau said of training camp. "What a tremendous compliment that is. I mean, how do you say thanks for that?"

The Steelers showed up with Terrible Towels in hand, and waved them at any mention of Pittsburgh or the Steelers, just as the team's fans would. They gave a standing twirl-vation when Dan Rooney, sitting on the stage, was introduced. And of course their greatest ovation was saved for LeBeau, who was introduced by his brother Bob.

"Dick LeBeau is my younger brother," Bob LeBeau said. "He's also my hero."

Dick LeBeau opened with the sentence he uses on a daily basis with his players:

"Man," he said, "this is really a great day to be alive."

LeBeau thanked his parents, his brother, his Lions teammates, the Hall of Fame committee, and writer Rick Gosselin, who'd made LeBeau's case before the Seniors Committee.

"Rick, you had a tough job, I know that," LeBeau said.

LeBeau then told a story about meeting President Obama after winning the Super Bowl, about how the President had singled him out, and how LeBeau had felt then that nothing would or could ever top the feeling.

"In all due respect, Mr. President," LeBeau said, "this whole business is a little bit bigger, I can tell you that."

LeBeau noted that Obama is the 44th president, and they'd met after winning the 44th Super Bowl, and that both LeBeau and fellow Seniors inductee Floyd Little wore No. 44 as players.

"They said it's the year of 44," LeBeau said. "I got a little different thing I do with the 4. Watch me now, this is a little sneaky:

"If you take 4 plus 4, that equals 8. Subtract 2, that gives 6. That's the number of Super Bowl championships that the Pittsburgh Steelers over here have won."

LeBeau then thanked the organization and nodded toward Rooney.

"Boy, I'm just completely humbled by that," LeBeau said of the presence of the United States Ambassador to Ireland. "I know he would tell you he had a lot of other business he had to take care of over here, but I know darn good and well why he's here."

LeBeau called his players "my best PR. They really are. They're the reason that President Obama knew who I was."

LeBeau singled out players for a variety of reasons. He mentioned Joey Porter, James Farrior, Rod Woodson, Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Tim Krumrie, Carnell Lake, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Darren Perry, Ryan Clark, Troy Polamalu, Bryant McFadden, Ike Taylor, Ray Horton, Dick Jauron, and coaches Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, Don Shula and the man who brought him to Pittsburgh, Bill Cowher.

"Thanks, coach," LeBeau said of Cowher, who recently lost his wife Kaye. "All of our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family in this tough time."

LeBeau also thanked the Rooney family, the Brown family of the Bengals, the Ford family of the Lions, and the Wilson family of the Bills. He thanked his former Lions roommate Jimmy Gibbons, former teammate Wayne Walker, his trainers, and the town of London, Ohio, where LeBeau was born and raised.

"Honesty and hard work, that's about all they value down there," he said.

LeBeau ended by telling the fans in attendance at Canton's Fawcett Stadium that "life is for the living. ... If I would've gotten out of my life's work at 65 or 67, when they say is the age of retirement, here is what I would have missed:

"I would have missed not one but two world championship football teams that I got to be a part of. I got to be a part of a No. 1 defense that statistically had the lowest numbers in the last 35 or 40 years. I had my number retired from my high school, had a building named after me in my hometown. I made the Detroit Lions' All 75-Year Team. I was accepted into the Ohio State University Athletic Hall of Fame. Now, tonight, I'll be in the NFL Hall of Fame.

"My mother always said, ‘Onward and upward. Age is just a number.'"

And with that, the 72-year-old Hall of Famer walked off the stage, and went back to work.

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