Thursday, August 5, 2010
LeBeau: HOF '10,000 dreams come true'
By James Walker ESPN.com
Had Dick LeBeau's life taken a slightly different path, he says he probably would've been a golf instructor.
Instead LeBeau is entering the Hall of Fame as a three-time Pro Bowl cornerback and one of the greatest defensive minds in football history.
Dick LeBeau's zone blitz has changed the way teams play defense in the NFL.
LeBeau spent his college days playing football for Ohio State in the fall and enjoying golf in the offseason. Legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus had a heavy influence on LeBeau's career choice.
"I played with Jack, then I decided I really should concentrate on football," LeBeau said with a chuckle. "I would not have been a golf player like Jack Nicklaus or Tom Weiskopf. But I can make a par or two, and I love to teach. So instead of a football coach, I probably would have been a golf coach."
LeBeau realized around his sophomore year at Ohio State that he wanted to coach football. He was hoping to last a few years playing professionally before making that transition. But LeBeau wound up playing 14 seasons in the league as a member of some great cornerback tandems with the Detroit Lions, teaming with Lem Barney and Dick "Night Train" Lane during his career.
Once LeBeau got into coaching, he made an even greater contribution to the NFL. His invention of the zone blitz changed the way many teams play defense and has been a huge part of LeBeau's Hall of Fame career.
"The largest impact that it has on me is that you're going to be a piece of National Football League history forever," LeBeau said. "That just makes me kind of shake my head a little bit, but I just feel truly blessed. No, it hasn't hit me. I'm not sure that it ever will. It's 10,000 dreams come true. I just count my blessings every day."
Out of respect, the Steelers organization re-worked its training camp schedule this year to fit in a bus trip to Canton, Ohio, to see LeBeau. Head coach Mike Tomlin said the entire team will be in attendance to see their popular defensive coordinator get enshrined.
"We're excited about it. What a great opportunity to have a field trip, if you will, for a football team," Tomlin said. "The camaraderie, coming together for a little bus ride, but more important it's a guy that we all love and admire. It's a very special day for him and by no means do we intend to miss it."