Dick LeBeau, a member of Ohio State’s 1956 championship team, was selected in the fifth round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He never made the Browns roster after the team cut him during his rookie training camp.
He then signed with the Detroit Lions and eventually earned a place in the team’s starting lineup for the final six games of his rookie campaign. He didn’t miss another game until late in his second to last season in 1971.
In 1960, LeBeau began to make his mark and gave the Lions assurance that they had made a good investment by signing the cornerback after he was let go by Cleveland. LeBeau, also noted as a proficient player against the run, picked off four passes that year to start a string of 12 straight seasons with three or more interceptions. In 1963, he intercepted five passes which he returned for a career-high 158 yards that included a 70-yard TD interception return against the Los Angeles Rams. It was one of three interceptions he returned for touchdowns in his career. The following year, he again intercepted five passes and for the first time received national recognition. He was voted to the first of three consecutive Pro Bowls. He also earned All-NFL second-team accolades, an honor bestowed upon him again in 1965, 1966, and 1970.
His finest season came in 1970 when he intercepted a NFC-leading nine interceptions for 96 yards. Despite playing in a secondary that at one time or another featured future Hall of Famers Dick “Night Train” Lane, Yale Lary, and later Lem Barney, he led or shared the team lead in interceptions four times. In all, LeBeau recorded 62 picks which he returned for 762 yards and three touchdowns in his 185-game career that spanned 14 seasons with the Lions. His interception total ranked third all-time in NFL history at the time of his retirement following the 1972 season.
LeBeau entered coaching following his playing career and currently serves as the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator. The 2009 NFL season marked his 37th year as a coach in the NFL.
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