Mike Tomlin took home the Dapper Dan 2008 Sportsman of the Year award. But tonight was a night for Dick LeBeau to grab the spotlight. I am a Mike Tomlin fan. Originator of Mike’s Masked Maniacs. But Tomlin, usually the king of the microphone, was no match tonight for the Buckeye from Ohio State.
Some of the speech from LeBeau…
“I love you Pittsburgh. I am kinda like that old dog that comes across your backyard…. But you just didn’t take me in, you did one better, you fed me, gave me a fire and a rug. I will be around for a long time.
In reference to the winners before him, LeBeau said (something to this effect), ok..this is like a test Fat, Obese, Chubby, Svelte. Which one doesn’t belong? Sort of like this test question…Paterno, Palmer, Rooney, LeBeau.
The 200+ on the floor of The Petersen Events Center respected the joke, but the humble LeBeau showed why he has achieved so much in his career and why his name deservedly belongs with that group.
He spoke highly of all of the players in attendance and even some who weren’t. LeBeau went well past his allotted time which he acknowledged with, “I can tell you now I am going to go over, tonight is a pretty big deal for me. I am honored.”
Not a person in the audience minded.
And no one will mind at all if he sticks around on the Pittsburgh sideline for a few more years either. “There is a guy up the road (JoePa) who is a lot older than me.”
LeBeau spoke of having Carnell Lake and Rod Woodson (who introduced LeBeau) in his same defensive backfield. “I was really smart in those days.” Now I got a guy named Polamula. I’m doing good in that safety category.
He spoke of the time when Woodson had hurt his knee. “His agent called me and said, Rod wonders if you would come out to West LaFayette and work him out? I told his agent I would walk to West LaFayette to help Rod.” He called it one of the greatest moments in his life. He then spoke some more on the topic and turned to look at Woodson…”you played seven more years after that right?” Woodson smiled and nodded to which LeBeau turned back to the microphone and said, “I guess that workout went alright.”
LeBeau beamed like a proud father when he spoke of having three MVPs. Woodson in 93, Farrior (“oh, trust me he won!), and Harrison. No wonder several players called him a father figure as Bill Hilgrove took the microphone to Jason Gildon, Brett Keisel, and Ryan Clark for comments.
LeBeau said, “I’m going to tell you something nobody knows…. James Farrior suffered very serious injuries in both of the Super Bowl victories… I was trying to come up with a Plan B…Don’t you know he never missed a single snap in either game!”
He then turned his attention to Safety Ryan Clark who had earlier accepted the trophy for Polamalu’s fingertip interception against the Chargers on November 16 which earned Dapper Dan Play of the Year. LeBeau said Ryan Clark “graded out the highest on the team this season. He is much more than a trophy collector.” He made the crowd roar as he depicted Polamalu ”running all over the field and Ryan would be playing centerfield.”
He touched on Brett Keisel as the ”skinny mountain man from BYU. I remember there were two guys I always saw working hard in the room….Brett and James Harrison, they were in there everyday.”
As he began to close the passionate speech, he took a few minutes to review each of his starters on defense. Did I mention he didn’t have notes for any of this? Teleprompter? No, not necessary. The passion his players spoke of was on full display.
LeBeau finished his acceptance speech as his Steeler defense finishes most games. Strong. The originator of the zone blitz went out with the following…
“….I have had nine jobs and been fired from five of ‘em. It happens. The last time I was fired I was 65 years old. I didn’t want to retire, I wanted to compete. At that time, I had 45 years in the NFL….. No rings…. (He held up his ringless right hand and slightly raised his Super Bowl ringed left hand) Now look I am going to get another one for this hand over here! These guys have been number one defense three of last five years. (LeBeau used the word they religiously throughout his over 25 minute speec–not once did I hear him say the word ‘I or ‘my’)
If you wanna retire, go ahead. But don’t dropout. You just might fall into a bunch of guys like this that will make you look smart as hell….”
The only difference between DeJuan Blair and the other student athletes at the event? They all wore ties, jackets, vests, left their cell phones, jeans and sunglasses in the dorm. It didn’t matter though as Blair took home the trophy for Dapper Dan Breakthrough Athlete of the Year. Sorry Nate McLouth and Coonelly-the Pirates streak continues. (Jason Kendall 2000 was last time at the podium.)
More on the Tomlin brothers later and some (poor) pictures of the event.