By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — Dick LeBeau had a hall pass that was open-ended for his return to the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp at Saint Vincent College, but after three full days celebrating his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the club’s defensive coordinator returned for Monday’s afternoon practice.
“You know that Dick LeBeau couldn’t stay away from this long, but he had an awesome weekend,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “And I’m glad he allowed us to share in it with him.”
LeBeau termed election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame the finest day in his professional life, and he still appeared to be enjoying it.
“I haven’t touched ground yet, but now I’m enjoying floating,” LeBeau said. “I was worried about it for a while, but I’m not going to worry about it any more. You know, there’s ups and downs in life, but this is enough.
“(And) I couldn’t wait to get back. I told the other coaches to do well, but don’t do too good so that they would think they could get by without me. But they did fine. (And) when I came back out on this field, it was like I came back home.”
LeBeau spent 14 years in Detroit with the Lions, 15 in Cincinnati with the Bengals and 14 with the Steelers, but he considered the latter to be home.
“I have five Super Bowl rings, but only two say World Champions on it,” LeBeau said, referring to the Steelers’ victories after the 2005 and 2008 seasons. He lost once with the Steelers following the 1995 season and twice with Cincy.
LeBeau spoke for some 17 minutes, nearly double the allotted time limit that few adhere to, but actually forgot to mention some guys. Steelers linebackers James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Keyaron Fox and Larry Foote were on his mind, though.
“They’re kind of the wheels that go around the engine of the defensive line,” LeBeau said. “(But) I think they still know how I feel about them.”
Even though his speech was quite emotional, LeBeau didn’t shed a tear. He made a concerted effort not to cry and held true to that promise to himself. Even at the end when LeBeau closed with a message that “age is just a number,” and it shouldn’t stop anyone from doing what they want to do.
“I think my life can be an example to some people,” LeBeau said. “Don’t throw the towel in before you have to, and don’t let your mind trick you into that. So, age is a number, but they’ll be plenty of time later when it isn’t. (And) if I’ve got anything to say to people, it’s for them to look what’s happened to me.”
It took several decades, but patience finally paid off for LeBeau.
Notes: Not only did the Steelers players attend the induction, but Arizona players Joey Porter, Clarik Haggans and Alan Faneca joined Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt there. They flew out to watch LeBeau and Russ Grimm in particular.