Honor the Heroes of the Game, Preserve Its History, Promote Its Values & Celebrate Excellence Everywhere
"Let me stress that I've never intentionally made a dirty play in my life, because this is the way I like to live. But if you come near me and you're not in the pattern and I have a chance to hit you, I'm gonna hit you."
(Ohio State)...6'1'', 185...Drafted by Cleveland Browns in fifth round (58th overall), 1959 … Cut by Browns during rookie training camp, signed with Lions … String of 12 consecutive seasons with three or more interceptions … Five picks returned for career-high 158 yards, 1963 … Voted to three consecutive Pro Bowls … All-NFL second-team four times … NFC-leading nine interceptions for 96 yards, 1970… Recorded 62 career interceptions for 762 yards and three touchdowns, ranked third all-time at retirement … Born September 9, 1937 in London, Ohio.
Dick LeBeau, a member of Ohio State’s 1957 championship team, was selected in the fifth round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He never made the Browns' roster after the team cut him during his rookie training camp.
He then signed with the Detroit Lions and eventually earned a place in the team’s starting lineup for the final six games of his rookie campaign. He didn’t miss another game until late in his second-to-last season in 1971.
In 1960, LeBeau began to make his mark and gave the Lions assurance they had made a good investment by signing the cornerback after he was let go by Cleveland. LeBeau, also noted as a proficient player against the run, picked off four passes that year to start a string of 12 seasons with three or more interceptions. In 1963, he intercepted five passes, which he returned for a career-high 158 yards that included a 70-yard TD interception return against the Los Angeles Rams. It was one of three interceptions he returned for touchdowns in his career. The following year, he again intercepted five passes and for the first time received national recognition. He was voted to the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls. He also earned All-NFL second-team accolades, an honor bestowed upon him again in 1965, 1966 and 1970.
His finest season came in 1970, when he intercepted a NFC-leading nine passes for 96 return yards. Despite playing in a secondary that at one time or another featured future Hall of Famers Dick “Night Train” Lane, Yale Lary and later Lem Barney, he led or shared the team lead in interceptions four times. In all, LeBeau recorded 62 picks, which he returned for 762 yards and three touchdowns in his 185-game career that spanned 14 seasons with the Lions. His interception total ranked third all-time in NFL history at the time of his retirement following the 1972 season.
LeBeau never played in a conference or league championship game during his career.
All-NFL Second Team: 1964 (AP, UPI), 1965 (AP, NEA), 1966 (NEA)• 1970 (FW)
All-Western Conference: 1965 (SN)
All-NFC Second Team: 1971 (UPI)
(3) – 1965, 1966, 1967
(at time of his retirement following 1972 season)
• [3rd] Most Career Interceptions – 62
Lions records held by LeBeau
(Records through the 1972 season, LeBeau’s final season with Detroit)
• [1st] Most Career Interceptions – 62
• [3rd] Most Career Interception Return Yardage – 762
NFC Statistical Championships
Interception Leader: 1970
Team Statistical Championships
Interception Leader: 1963, 1965, 1970, 1971
Full Name: Charles Richard LeBeau
Birthdate: September 9, 1937
Birthplace: London, Ohio
High School: London (OH)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: February 6, 2010
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: August 7, 2010
Presenter: Bob LeBeau, Dick's brother
Other Members of the Class of 2010: Russ Grimm, Rickey Jackson, Floyd Little, John Randle, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith
Pro Career: 14 seasons, 185 games
Drafted: 5th round (58th player overall) in 1959 by Cleveland Browns
Uniform Number: #44
That Saturday when we heard that he was actually elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I was by myself. The first call I got, I got choked up. I ran in the kitchen, I poured myself about four fingers of single-malt scotch and the next call I was fine. My first reaction was, “Can you believe it; a guy from London, Ohio, in the Pro Football Hall of Fame?”
When I was a senior in high school, my brother was a freshman. We were undefeated. I was the quarterback of that team, my brother was a third-teamer and he came up to my shoulder.
Hands, feet, brains. He was a freak of nature. He was full-bore the whole ball game. Dick LeBeau, he was one tough cookie on the football field. My brother wasn’t coming out of the game. Back then, as long as they could walk, they weren’t coming out of the game.
December 9, ’62, and they’re playing the Minnesota Vikings, the great Fran Tarkenton. And in that game, my brother intercepted two passes. One on about the 30 — brought that back for a touchdown. One on about the 25 — brought that back for a touchdown. Individually, it was his greatest game as a pro.
Narrator (Steve Sabol):
In 14 years with the Detroit Lions, Dick LeBeau intercepted 62 passes, third all-time amongst NFL cornerbacks. He started 171 consecutive games, still the league record for a cornerback.
In 1988, I brought my youngest son to the Hall of Fame. That’s when I said, "My brother should be in here, too." That thought came to mind with the vote that got him in that he’s gonna make the Hall of Fame, and you could have knocked me over with a feather.
After that game in Detroit, when he came up, we hugged and we both had some tears coming for that win. That was a great feeling. And he’s got two and I’m sure that he’s gonna be concentrating on getting that third Super Bowl.
It’s hard to describe the pride that the whole family has. We’re just tickled to death that they finally got smart enough to put him in there. This is the best day of my life. We’re football people. I’m honored to present Dick LeBeau for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
(END OF VIDEO)
Man, this really is a great day to be alive (smiling). Here we are. I'd like to thank my mom and dad for creating the family environment that led an ornery young guy grow up and maybe someday allowed to have a weekend happen for him like is happening right now. Thank you, mom and dad.
I thank my brother, not only for introducing me, but for being the best big brother anybody could ever hope for all my life. I only got one problem tonight. They want me to give 52 years of NFL experience into a 10-minute talk (laughter). I don't know if I can do that, but I'll try.
I'm being inducted as a player. Believe me, that makes me most proud. I did that for 14 years. But for the last 38 years, I've been a football coach. So to ask me to talk more in two minutes and not talk about my guys over here, tell you right now, it ain't gonna happen.
The good thing for you folks is when I talk about them, you know who I'm talking about. We're not talking about the guys I played against. You would say, "Who is that? Who did he say?"
I'm proud to be from Detroit, proud of the guys that I played with. My teammates alone Dick 'Night Train' Lane, Lem Barney, Charlie Sanders, Yale Lary and probably the best teammate anybody had, Joe Schmidt, they're already in the Hall of Fame. I'm so honored I'm going to be in there with them.
This Hall of Fame is a big deal. Can't really comprehend it. I've always been kind of known as a laid-back type of guy. From the minute they told me I was in the Hall of Fame. Well, really I didn't find it out from the Hall of Fame. They said I had been nominated; I wasn't in. They said that they'd call me the minute they knew about how the voting turned out. There was a television show giving all the results. I wasn't about to be looking at that. I was sitting there chewing my fingernails, hoping they vote me in.
I knew about what time the TV show was coming on, watching the clock, keeping my mind occupied, waiting on that phone call. The phone rings. It's my buddy from Colorado, Jimmy Othrow. I said, Oh, man, he's a great friend. I have to take his call, but I have to tell him I can't talk to him; I'm expecting a call from the Hall of Fame. I answered the phone. I said, "Jimmy, the Hall of Fame is supposed to call, letting me know if I'm in." He said, "You big dummy, you're in. It's all over the TV." That's how I found out. (Laughter).
I was giddy, you know. My foot wouldn't touch the ground. I said, "C'mon, Dick, get a hold of yourself." You're an experienced liver. Not old, you just got a lot of experience. I got on the plane and got down to the Super Bowl where they introduced it. I saw Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith with the numbers they just read. Everybody knew they were going in. They knew they were going in. Heck, they were just giddy, happy, off the ground as I was. I made my mind up there I'm going to relax, enjoy this and I don't care if I ever come down.
I want to thank the Hall of Fame and the committee for having the foresight for creating a vehicle to get players like Floyd and myself a second chance to get back in here. As I said, when you're an experienced liver, things do mean truly to you.
I want to thank Rick Gosselin for bringing my name in front of that committee. Rick, you had a tough job, I know that.
A couple years ago, I got to meet the president of the United States. We got over to the White House. President Obama came in. He talked to us for a couple of seconds, a little while, said hello to us. Then we all went outside on the White House lawn. President Obama talked to -- I'd call it a throng, there was a lot of people out there. The president was about halfway through his talk and he said something like, "Well, we all know Dick LeBeau. He's the defensive coordinator of the great Steeler defense. And, Dick, where are you, Dick?" I'm like, "Hey, Pres, I'm right over here."
When I got back home that night, I thought, you know, this might be the highest deal of my life. President Obama is singling me out, getting me some applause in his speech. 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, I can tell you that. (Smiling).
President Obama is the 44th president of our country, it was the 44th Super Bowl last year and Floyd and I both wore 44 when we played. They said, "It's the year of 44." 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 two, that gives 6. That's the number of Super Bowl championships that the Pittsburgh Steelers over here have won.
They're here tonight. I have to tell you, that's about the highest compliment I've ever had paid to me in my life. Ambassador Rooney is here. Boy, I'm just completely humbled by that. 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. I'm so proud of that, that he and the Rooney family, coach Mike Tomlin, who let this football team come out of training camp, folks, you got to think about this, let them be here tonight, it's just like them having another away game.
But I told several of them before I left -- I'll tell y'all right now -- I wouldn't want to be here without you, men, offense, defense, special teams, I wouldn't want to be here without you. They're my best PR. They really are. They're the reason that President Obama knew who I was.
A few years ago we played in this game. Joey Porter and James Farrior, two of our great leaders, they got this idea they would put on Dick LeBeau jerseys and wear them all over. He's still out there; he ain't in there yet. Last year, Rod Woodson stood up here in his induction speech and he mentioned me. Rod, I'll never be able to thank you for that.
I thank all you guys for your PR, because look where it got me, man. It worked.
I coached a lot of great players. I'm not going to get into that. Guys ask me, "Coach, what's the perfect 3-4? Who would be the very ideal people at each position?" I said, "Well, really, truthfully, you start with Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel on the defensive line. Really, seriously. Not only the great players, they're totally unselfish. In the 3-4, your linemen have to be a little unselfish because you know everybody is going to talk about the linebackers and the safeties anyhow all day.
I told Casey, "You a great player, but I had a nose tackle that actually led our team when I was in Cincinnati." Tim Krumrie led our team several times in tackles. Casey looked at me. You can't get anything over on him. You said your nose tackle led your team in defensive stops? I said, "More than once." He said, "Coach, there's no way you're running the same system that you're running with me." He might be right. (Laughter).
But I've had some great players with the Steelers. I had Rod Woodson, who is in the Hall of Fame. Carnell Lake. I was a really smart coach then. Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene on the outside linebackers. They made me pretty smart, too. And I've had some smart players behind to tell those kinds of players where to go. Darren Perry, coaching up in Green Bay now, he was on that team. I had Ray Horton, who is working with me now in Pittsburgh. I had Dick Jauron, two-time NFL head coach. He graduated from Yale. You know he's pretty smart.
I've had a lot of smart guys. I'm going to tell you right now, Ryan Clark, who is with us right now, he's in there with that group. He's a smart football player, a good football player. Let me tell you now. Ryan has something to deal with that none of those guys had to deal with. Ryan is back there every Sunday with a guy by the name of Troy Polamalu.
I don't mean to tell you that Ryan tells Troy where to go 'cause, in all honesty, nobody tells Troy where to go. (Laughter). All I know is wherever he goes, something usually good happens for the Steelers.
But Ryan sits back there and watches Troy and he tries to keep our defense balanced. He does a great job of that. It's not like he can play two or three games and say, "I got it," because Troy keeps changing the script on him all the time. He likes to test him out every now and then. I wouldn't trade those two guys for anything.
With the Steelers' defense, we also got B-Mac (Bryant McFadden) back there at corner, and Ike Taylor. I might be off a little on this, Ike, but when I first came there, I don't think I started him in one game. Now he's started every game we've played for the last six years. Hasn't missed a game, hasn't missed a snap. That's a great record of durability and dependability. Six straight years. Ike, all you got to do is go eight more, man, and you can catch me. (Smiling).
People ask me if I ever talk about when I played to my players. You just saw an example of how they have to suffer through that most every day. They ask me about what coach did you borrow the most from. I had too many great ones. When I was at Ohio State, I played for Woody Hayes, the great Woody Hayes. I still learned something almost daily from the current head coach of the Ohio State University, Jim Tressel. Coach Tressel is a textbook on how to conduct yourself at a major college level with integrity.
Don Shula was one of my first defensive coordinators. I've been told a lot of times that Coach Shula takes credit for a lot of the good things that I did. In fact, almost all the good things that I did. (Smiling). I always tell Coach Shula when I see him, I said, "Don, that's fair because me and my defensive teammates make all the credit for making you the coach you turned out to be later on."
Another head coach that I had that I'll always be grateful for is a man that first brought me to Pittsburgh, coach Bill Cowher. Thanks, Coach. All of our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family in this tough time.
Owners? The owners I've worked for, played for, read like the Hall of Fame. Right now with the Rooney family. They have two in the Hall of Fame. I spent about 20 years with the Brown family in Cincinnati. If ever the word 'legendary' ever applied, I think the great Paul Brown certainly has that coming to his name. He operated within a 20-mile radius of where we're standing for a long time.
Also I worked for Ralph Wilson. He's in the Hall of Fame, from Buffalo. My buddy Tom Donahoe and Gregg Williams brought me up there, kept me from an early retirement.
I played for William Clay Ford and his wife, Martha Firestone Ford. That's two of the great families of America and great in the history of the NFL. It's like a storybook deal. I couldn't make this stuff up. I'm very proud of my playing career, my roommate with Jimmy Gibbons all those years, Wayne Walker, not going to get into all my Lion teammates, but they were all great guys and great players. I would like to thank my trainers. Millard Kelly was early days, then Kent got me through when I got hurt a little bit more later on in my career. Those guys kept me out there on the field. I thank them for that.
As far as my playing ability, I was known as the guy who was just going to come to work every day. I was going to play hard every day. Might not always play good every play, but I was going to play the next play as hard. I learned that from London, Ohio, a small town about two hours from where we're standing. Honesty and hard work, that's about all they value down there. It sure has stood me in good stead.
I'll leave you with one thing: Life is for living, folks. Don't let a number be anything other than a number. Don't let somebody tell you that you're too old to do this or too old to do that. Stay in life. Life is a gift. It's a joy. Don't drop out of it. Don't let somebody else tell you and don't let your mind tell you.
If I would have 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, folks. I would have missed not one but two World Championship football teams that I got to be a part of. That's these guys over here. 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 guess when I sit down, get off this speaking, which I'm gonna do, I'll be in the NFL Hall of Fame.
My mother always said, "Onward and upward." Age is just a number. God love y'all. Thank you.