When Dick LeBeau heard the phone ring, his first thought was maybe it was the Hall of Fame calling. Maybe it was the moment he waited years too long for, to learn that he finally was going to be a Hall of Fame inductee.
He looked at the phone and saw the number. It was a close friend, Jimmy Othrow, who was calling. LeBeau is not one to ever ignore a call from a friend, even at such a life-changing moment, so he answered it.
"I said I better take this call, but I will tell him I can't talk to him because the Hall of Fame might call," said LeBeau. "He started spouting poetry which he always does when something good happens. I said Jimmy I don't know anything at all. He said it's all over the TV, you are in. That's how I found out."
LeBeau chose not to watch the Hall of Fame show on NFL Network, a two-hour special that didn't pinpoint exactly when the Class of 2010 would be announced. He assumed if he were to make it in, he would get word directly from the Hall, not from his television screen.
"I thought the Hall of Fame was going to call me so I said I am not going to watch this program and bite my nails for two hours because you didn't know when it was going to be released," said LeBeau.
Talking on Wednesday at the Steelers practice facility, LeBeau admitted that it still is sinking in that his incredible 14-year career as a cornerback with the Detroit Lions resulted in his induction into the Hall of Fame this coming August.
"I'm unable to explain what that moment is like," said LeBeau of first learning the news. "It's something you hope for all of your life. You don't dare think that it is going to happen. Therefore when it does happen you have a hard time convincing yourself did they just say what I think they said. My feet really haven't touched the ground since they told me. I am tremendously humbled, greatly relieved. It's an honor that was a long time looking for it. I feel so blessed."
LeBeau's older brother Bob will present him at the Hall of Fame, but he will miss his parents (Beulah and Robert) being there as both are deceased. LeBeau's mother passed away this past September, but he knows they will be watching over him on induction day.
"I thought about my mom and dad and brother," said LeBeau when asked who he first thought of when he heard the news. "There are four in our family that started out together and my brother is going to present me because he and I are the only two left out of the four. That was my first thought, my family and the great environment they provided for me, the leadership and examples that enabled me to have a productive career and wonderful life.
"My mom was the strongest believer of anybody I knew. She said, 'Dick, you are going in, you are going in.' It's been a long time. I tried to prepare her for the fact that I might never get in. She said you are going in. I am sure she would say simply I told you so. She was alive when I was nominated so that is a blessing. She knew I was nominated. I am glad she made it there. I know her and dad both know."
LeBeau is still receiving congratulations and hasn't had the opportunity to even see all of the players yet, but is definitely looking forward to that.
"I haven't gotten to see a lot of the players yet, but I know the first thing is going to be a big hug. I will probably be hugging them harder than they will be hugging me," said LeBeau. "I am so grateful to our players current and past. Rod (Woodson) mentioned me in his acceptance speech. The guys in this group who have played so well and kept my name current. The Rooney's and the Steelers have given me the opportunity to work past an age where many people aren't still in the public eye. All of the former players of ours who have kept me employed. I have a lot of good friends in the media who have helped in this thing. You can't get there without that help.
"I am so grateful and humbled. You don't get in the Hall of Fame without a tremendous amount of help. I acknowledge that. I am grateful for the system that enables them to go back and pick up a person like myself and Floyd Little who for whatever reason didn't make it in when our careers were current. There are a lot of things to be thankful for and I am thankful for every one of them."