“Seek opportunities to show you care. The smallest gestures often make the biggest difference.”
John Wooden

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Dick LeBeau's career built on close relationships

Troy Polamalu and Dick LeBeau
There has to be a good reason Dick LeBeau wants to continue coaching, why, at 77 and having just been pushed out by the Steelers after a long run, he wants to go to a new team and start over.
The easy guess is LeBeau is afraid of what comes after football. Joe Paterno had the same fear. Paterno knew that longtime coach and friend Bobby Bowden had said famously many times, "After you retire, there's only one big event left." He also knew that another legendary colleague, Bear Bryant, retired in December 1982 and died in January 1983 at 69.
There's also the competition factor. Anyone who knows LeBeau will tell you he will do anything to beat you. He loves to try to outwit offensive coordinators who have all the advantages because of NFL rules that are designed to promote high-scoring football. He has been doing it for years and years, decades and decades. You can't get that thrill, that sense of satisfaction when it happens, anywhere else.
But there's more behind LeBeau's plan to keep coaching. He will tell you the best part of his professional career is the relationships he has made over 56 NFL seasons as a player and a coach. No one has been more respected, more revered, more beloved in the game. It's hard to walk away from that. How do you walk away?
"I've been blessed," LeBeau said a few years ago. "The players are like family to me. What more could a man ask for?"
The players lovingly call LeBeau, "Coach Dad." Before each morning meeting, he would tell them, "Men, this is a great day to be alive." They believed it, at least in part because he was standing in front of them. That's the gift LeBeau has, even more than his knowledge of defensive X's and O's, which is vast. As longtime friend Bobby Knight put it in a 2006 interview with the Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac, "He captivates your attention." LeBeau's players want to excel, not just for themselves and the team, but for him. They don't want to let him down. They will do anything for him. Literally.
"If he tells us to jump off a cliff, I believe we would do it," former defensive end Aaron Smith once said. "If he tells us to do anything, we do it because we know it's the right thing."
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