By Alan Robinson
INDIANAPOLIS–Earlier this week, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau went home to London, Ohio, but — and just for a moment — he felt a little out of place.
At a full-school assembly honoring him for being a Pro Football Hall of Fame member, LeBeau was listening to the London High School pep band play the school’s fight song. It wasn’t the same one he remembered from 57 years ago.
Yes, the 75-year-old LeBeau has outlived his high school’s original fight song.
But while LeBeau played with the grandfathers of current-day London High players, he remains as contemporary as ever in his approach to defense. He told the students how much he enjoyed working with the Steelers’ current-day players, how their mindset to remain as one of the NFL’s premier defenses from season to season never changes.
There was no talk of a locker-room rift on this day.
“There’s still some things I want to get done with these guys,” LeBeau said, suggesting that he is not yet contemplating the retirement is certain to come soon — and but perhaps not in the near future.
Certainly not before the Steelers go to London to play next fall — the one in England.
During the ceremony, LeBeau’s older brother, Bob, proudly read off a list of accomplishments by the Steelers defense. The pride in his voice was obvious. The pride that London takes in its hometown-boy-made-good in LeBeau is obvious, too; LeBeau has been gone from the community for more than 50 years, yet two entire sections of the school trophy case are devoted to him.
As LeBeau walked into the school gym, the football players lined up to shake his hand and to show him the way.
The 500 or so London students sat quietly — there wasn’t even the hint of a murmur — as LeBeau talked for 15 minutes about being from a small town, and how it influenced his life. His recalled his mother being a competitor who didn’t get mad at losing any game or contest but one who immediately asked for a rematch. He talked about his amateur golfer father who was routinely outdriven by 50 to 75 yards in area tournaments, but whose steadiness meant he was never out of a match.
“This is a proud moment for me,” LeBeau said.
His hometown felt the same. There is a movement on to raise the money to build a new gym. If is it built, the plans are to name it after LeBeau.