LeBeau humbled by support


As Dick LeBeau walked away from the podium after finishing his Hall of Fame speech he shared an embrace with his brother Bob who presented him and then he stopped and took a step back, looked over his shoulder and waved one last time to a special group assembled in the bleachers.

It was a salute to those who came to honor him, the entire Steelers team, coaching staff and team personnel. Those who ho helped make this day one of the best days in LeBeau's life.

"They are here tonight and I have to tell you that is about the highest compliment I have had paid to me in my life," said LeBeau during his speech. "Ambassador (Dan) Rooney is here and I am completely humbled by that. He and the Rooney family, and Coach (Mike) Tomlin let this team come out during training camp. To let them come out here tonight, it's like them having another away game. I told them I wouldn't want to be here without you men."

The players cheered for LeBeau, some wearing his Lions jersey, in a manner they are accustomed to being cheered for, with guys like Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger proudly waving Terrible Towels as LeBeau was introduced and opened things with  "This really is a great day to be alive" and throughout his speech.

LeBeau thanked his family, he thanked those in the Detroit Lions organization responsible for the success he had during his 14-year Hall of Fame career that ran from 1959-72. After all, while the black and gold was out in full force to support LeBeau, he was in fact being inducted for his stellar playing career with the Lions, when the former defensive back had 62 interceptions.

"I am proud of the guys I played with," said LeBeau. "My teammates are already in the Hall of Fame. I am so honored to go in there with them."

But in typical LeBeau fashion, a man who never likes to be in the spotlight focused more on the current Steelers players than he did on his own playing career.

"I am being inducted as a player and believe me that makes me the most proud. I did that for 14 years," said LeBeau. "But for the last 38 years I have been a football coach so to ask me to talk more than two minutes and not talk about my guys over here, I can tell you right now it ain't going to happen. The good thing for you guys is when I talk about them you will know who I am talking about. When I talk about the guys I played against you will say who?"

LeBeau recalled when he found out he finally made it to the Hall of Fame, and shared the emotion that he felt then.   

"I was giddy. My feet wouldn't touch the ground," said LeBeau. "I said, come on Dick, get a hold of yourself. You're an experienced liver – not old, you just have a lot of experience. I got on the plane and got down to the Super Bowl where they introduced us and I saw Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith. They were just as giddy and off the ground as I was. I made my mind up right there I am going to just relax and enjoy this and I don't care if I ever come down."

He also shared a story of being at the White House after the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII and President Barack Obama singling him out when talking.

"I thought there certainly can't be anything greater than this, but in all due respect Mr. President this whole business is a little bit bigger."

As he wrapped up his speech, LeBeau reminded people of one thing. Don't let age scare you. At 72-years old, LeBeau has the zest and enthusiasm of those decades younger than him. And he enjoys every moment of every day, and plans to continue to do that.

"Life if for living folks. Don't let a number be anything but a number," said LeBeau. "Don't let anybody tell you that you are too old to do this or do that. Stay in life. Life is a gift. It's a joy. Don't drop out of it.

"If I would have gotten out of my life's work at 65 or 67 here's what I would have missed – not just one but two World Championship football teams I got to be a part of. I got to be a part of the number one defense that statistically had the lowest numbers in the last 35-40 years. I had my number retired from my high school, a building named after me in my home time. I made the Detroit Lions all 75-year team. I was accepted into the Ohio State University athletic Hall of Fame.

"And now tonight I guess when I get down and get off of this speaking, I will be in the NFL Hall of Fame. My mother always said onward, and upward."

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