Dick LeBeau, Still Going Strong

“I have taken many experiences from many places, but I always loved the way coach Dick LeBeau treated his players.  He treated you with respect and cared for you on a level beyond the playing field.  I really respect that and wish to share those qualities with the kids I coach,” said Travis Kirshke.

Having been a part of  the NFL for over fifty seven seasons, LeBeau has built up quite the resume, including two-time Super Bowl champion, three time pro-bowler, and finally in 2010 a Hall of Famer. LeBeaus’ impact on the game has sent ripple effects through the league. He continues to leave his mark not only on the players he has coached but also how the game itself is played.

lebeau1At seventy-eight years young and 43 years removed from his playing days, LeBeau Is currently one of the oldest active members of the NFL with no signs of slowing down. In this day and age, Lebeau’s name is often associated with his work as a defensive coordinator. However before he was guiding some of the league’s top defensive units, he was apart of them. Having spent fourteen years in Detroit’s secondary, LeBeau holds numerous franchise records, including that for interceptions with 62.  A leader in a Hall of Fame secondary, which included Dick Lane, Yale Lary and Lem Barney, cemented LeBeaus’ legacy early on. It was evident even early on that he stood out from the rest, not only talent wise but in terms of football IQ.

LeBeau’s real impact on the game would come after his playing days; coaching with the Eagles, Bengals, Steelers, Bills, and eventually the Titans. Regardless of the team he is working with, LeBeau is recognized for running a gritty whistle-to-whistle unit. Having figured out the blueprint for success, LeBeau was the orchestrator behind the Steelers’ defense that led them to two Super Bowl titles.

“I haven’t changed a bit over the years. I have tried to learn from all these people and have tried to dissect what makes them so successful. What is it that made them better teachers, better communicators,” said Dick LeBeau.

It is that communication and openness that has transformed LeBeau into not only the coach but also the mentor he has become. Perhaps no greater example of this is his annual reciting of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to his teams. LeBeau recites the story from memory for the entire time, and it’s since become a tradition. “Every word that came out of his mouth, everyone was listening. It meant a lot to everybody, especially this time of year,” said Titans guard Chance Warmack. “It was so quiet you could hear a pin drop in that room.”

lebeauhortonLeBeau’s likeability goes far beyond his ability to tell a story from memory. The respect he demands and delivers from his players is where he truly excels. In an interview, one of Lebeau’s former players on the Steelers stated, “Coach LeBeau recruits himself. He is like Coach K. You know what you are getting yourself into,’’ Taylor said, in reference of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. “You don’t have to ask the veteran guys who have played under him. Just say Coach LeBeau wants you to come, and they’d say: ‘What time?’ That’s the way people feel about him.” Outside of the relationships created by LeBeau he was able to create something that transformed the landscape of defense in the NFL – the zone blitz.  A common defensive scheme nowadays was once very uncommon until LeBeau entered the coaching scene.  The idea of blitzing while still being able to play safe coverage was revolutionary, just like LeBeau. Always adapting, learning, and garnering the respect of his peers were just a few of the important traits LeBeau is known for.

Truly one of the greats, arguably can even be placed on the Mount Rushmore of coaches, LeBeau is a walking NFL legend. A man that has truly lived and breathed football his entire life. The legacy that is Dick Lebeau only continues to grow as the impact he has made will not soon fade away.

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