CANTON, Ohio – After a 32-year wait, Dick LeBeau finally was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night.
"Man, this really is a great day to be alive," said LeBeau, elected by the senior committee and the first of seven men who entered the shrine.
He was immediately followed by John Randle, who as a defensive tackle with the Vikings and Seahawks accumulated 137½ sacks in 14 seasons, most for anyone at that position.
LeBeau was chosen for his 14-year career as a cornerback with the Detroit Lions, even though he's best known as an assistant coach, the mastermind of the zone blitz. Currently the defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers, LeBeau singled out his players who sat in a corner of Fawcett Stadium.
"I am being inducted as a player and believe me that makes me most proud," LeBeau said. "I did that for 14 years. but for the last 38 years I have been a football coach.
"They are here," he added, pointing to the Steelers, who he helped win two Super Bowls in the last five seasons. "That's just about the highest compliment ever paid to me in my life.
"Ambassador (Dan) Rooney is here. I am truly humbled by that. They let this football team come out of training camp ... think about that, it's like having another road game.
"I wouldn't want to be here without you: offense, defense and special teams."
The players stood in applause and fans in the crowd whirled Terrible Towels in tribute.
LeBeau finished his 14-year career in 1972 with 62 interceptions, still eighth in NFL history. He led the league in picks in 1970 with nine.
Elected by the senior committee, LeBeau joins Dick "Night Train" Lane and Yale Lary, who played in the same secondary, in the hall.
The 73-year-old LeBeau, the oldest coordinator in the league, noted how making the Hall of Fame surpassed his previous best moment in football.
"The president signaling me out, this might be highest moment of my life, there certainly can't be anything great than this," LeBeau said he thought.
Yes, there can.
"In all due respect, Mr. President," LeBeau added, "this business is a whole lot bigger."
Randle couldn't agree more. In a short but thorough thank-you speech, Randle admitted, "I am so humbled by this incredible honor which I never thought was possible. I'm a smalltown kid whose dream came true."
Randle made six straight All-Pro teams (1993-98) and was chosen for seven Pro Bowls. He had a league-high 15½ sacks in 1997.
Undrafted out of Texas A&I in 1990, Randle became known for a combination of speed and power. He made the other NFL teams pay for that draft oversight by averaging 11½ sacks over a nine-year span with Minnesota.
Randle thanked the Vikings, "a team that believed in me and gave me a chance to play defensive line when most teams thought I was undersized" at 6-foot-1, 278 pounds.