LeBeau in triumphant return to Latrobe

LATROBE – Dick LeBeau returned to practice Monday and said of the Hall of Fame experience, "I'm enjoying floating." Then he gave an interview that gave a glimpse of the man behind the great speech.

Dick LeBeau, defensive coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers

Q: Well, has it finally sunk in yet?

A: It probably won't. Like I said there: I haven't touched ground; I'm enjoying floating.

I worried about it for a while but I'm not going to worry about it anymore. There are ups and downs in life. This is an up.

Q: Why did you come back so soon?

A: I couldn't wait to get back. And I could not wait to get back over here.

Q: How'd they do without you?

A: I told them now I want you to do real well but not to do too good because I don't want you to know you can get by without me. They did fine.

Q: What was it like coming down the hill to the cheers and hugs?

A: It was like I came back home, like this is my house and that is my family. That's just what it's like.

Q: Did you stick to the script of the speech?

A: I put a lot of time in there, especially after they told me I was going to lead off. I didn't want to let the Steeler organization down. I don't know how we did, but I think we did OK.

Q: Did you realize you talked for longer than 17 minutes?

A: I'd been through it a few times and I knew that 10 was definitely in trouble.

Q: Did you forget anyone?

A: You always do. I wanted to talk about our linebackers: James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons and Foxy and Foote, those guys. I was going to put all six in there. They're the wheels that go around the engine of the defensive line. But I think they know how I feel about them.

Q: Was there any question you were going to talk about your players?

A: No, no, there was never a question in my mind. If you talk to me for 10 minutes, about eight minutes will be about our players.

Q: Was it more emotional than you expected?

A: Well, I think it was. I did a good job with the emotional part of it. I made myself a promise I wasn't going to cry, but I found out early on I couldn't look over at the players, so I just started looking out at people I didn't know. But we did OK.

Q: You mentioned this is home. Considering your time in Detroit and Cincinnati, why is this particular stop home?

A: Well, I have five Super Bowl rings and only two say ‘champions' on it. And that's with the Steelers.

Q: Anything else?

A: We're all in this business for success. These guys play hard and do us all credit, all of us. It's a joy to be associated with them.

Q: Why in your speech did you make the point that age is just a number?

A: I think my life can be an example to some people. Don't throw the towel in, man, before you have to, and don't let your mind trick you into that. Age is a number. There'll be plenty of time later on when it isn't. I think if I've got anything to say to people, it's look at what happened to me when I've become an experienced liver.

Q: Were you planning on coming back today? Was there anything else planned for you?

A: I don't know if anybody had anything, but you weren't going to keep me away from this training camp today.

Q: Did you call to see how the guys were doing?

A: I knew they'd do well. First of all our defensive coaches are great. I knew they wouldn't miss a beat. I knew the players would play hard every down. I never gave that a second thought. I just missed them. I wanted to get back over here.

Q: The night before you saw all of those Hall of Famers on the stage and had something to say to them as if you knew them all. Was there anyone in particular you really wanted to see?

A: No, I don't think so. It was great to see everybody. One of the great things about the whole week over there, I'm probably the only guy in the room either to play against or coach against all of those guys. I recognized the uniqueness of that and how blessed I am to be able to say, ‘Man, I know all these guys.' That was kind of neat.

Q: Did that realization hit you there?

A: Really, when you're sitting there looking at all of them, you think, ‘I guess I have been around a while.'

Q: Speaking of age, is this defense too old?

A: We're going to let the season speak for itself on that. I think this defense has an excellent blend of experience, middle-year guys, and young guys. I think that they will demonstrate that when we start playing.

Q: Who ran the defense while you were gone?

A: Each coach kind of shared the duties. It takes three of them to do my job (laughs).

Q: They gave up four touchdowns during goal-line. Casey Hampton, for one, wasn't pleased.

A: Yeah, but I hear one of them was definitely an official with bad eyesight. It was really 3 to 4.

Q: What was it like dealing with making that speech? Emotional? Nervous?

A: I knew a little bit ahead of time that I was going to lead off. That was a pretty special class and I wanted to get us off to a representative start and I wanted to represent the Steelers, so I really spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to say. That in itself kept me pretty much occupied. I didn't worry too much about the moment, just on what I was going to say.

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