LeBeau learns after 59 years there's life beyond the NFL


Dick LeBeau has had a quiet fall, something that has not been the case for the past six decades. Is there life after pro football when you’ve spent 59 years on NFL sidelines or in the game and many of the years before that starring in high school and on a national championship team at Ohio State?

The Talk of Fame Network thought the best way to find out was to ask the 81-year-old Hall of Famer, So we did.

LeBeau ranks third all-time among pure cornerbacks in interceptions with 62. Then he went on to a second Hall of Fame-worthy career as an NFL defensive coordinator so adept that he led five defenses that ranked No. 1 in the NFL and two that won Super Bowls. And oh, by the way, he was the inventor of the zone blitz that for so long confounded NFL offenses. To have had that much success and spent that much time in one endeavor, leaving had to have been difficult. So what does he miss most?

“I thought once they started playing I’d miss the game some but up until the first kickoff I didn’t miss anything,’’ LeBeau confessed. “Now I miss the games a little bit…those who coach a long time never get rid of that hunger to compete.’’

LeBeau played in a Lions’ secondary that consisted of three future Hall of Famers (LeBeau, Dick “Night Train’’ Lane and Yale Lary) and later had his hand on the wheel of some of the best defenses ever built, including ones that won two Super Bowls for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now that he’s away from the game for the first time since he was a kid growing up in rural Ohio, he’s learned an interesting fact.

“I’m glad I didn’t know about having a life,’’ he joked when asked if he missed the long hours in darkened film rooms and the other rigors of coaching.

Dick LeBeau still misses the players, the competition and the instant gratification that comes from a business where your plan is tested every seven days. But not nearly as much as the game misses him.

LeBeau is that rarest of combinations, a great player who was also able to become a great coach as well as a guy who got to live out a boyhood dream as both a member of a national championship team at Ohio State in 1957 and, nearly 50 years later, an NFL champion.

He told the Talk of Fame Network that in Super Bowl XL, back in Detroit where he spent his 14 seasons as a player, he sat on the bench and watched the final seconds tick off the clock. When the mad celebration began, he continued to sit. And think.

“I sat on the bench and watched those last seconds click off the clock by myself,’’ LeBeau recalled. “It had begun to look like I’d never get the experience of being a Super Bowl champion. I remember thinking, ‘I got to be dreaming.’ That was No. 1”

So, too, was Dick LeBeau.

Also dropping by for a visit is Hall of Fame voter Matt Maiocco to discuss the most deserving San Francisco 49ers not yet enshrined in Canton. Running back Roger Craig immediately comes to mind but Maiocco had two other guys atop his list that time may have forgotten but he has not.

To learn who they are tune in to our weekly show Wednesday night on your local SB Nation Radio network station (Friday night in San Diego and Los Angeles) or by subscribing to our free podcast at iTunes or on the TuneIn app. You can also hear this and all our past shows on our website, talkoffamenetwork.com.

In addition to our guests, co-hosts and Hall of Fame voters Ron Borges and Rick Gosselin debate what’s wrong with the Jaguars and some of the NFL’s top kickers and what’s right about the young class of quarterbacks who have been tearing up the NFL the past several seasons.

Rick will also put on his lab coat and morph into “Dr. Data’’ to analyze whether the Cowboys trade of a No. 1 pick to acquire Amari Cooper is likely to pay bigger dividends than their past swaps for Joey Galloway and Roy Williams, two trades that are now seen as busts.

There’s that and much more on this week’s Talk of Fame Network show on SB Nation Radio.