100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions: #32 Dick LeBeau

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In this Saturday edition of 100 Days, 100 Detroit Lions, we honor a man who, as a Lion, played defensive back opposite fellow Hall of Famers Dick “Night Train” Lane and (later) Lem Barney. And forty years later, is still making an impact in the NFL as the longtime defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

32. Dick LeBeau

Defensive Back. 1959-72 Detroit; 1959 Cleveland Browns

Dick LeBeau was traded to the Lions, from the Cleveland Browns, mid-way through his rookie season of 1959. One has to wonder if the Browns ever regretted the deal, as Dick went on to become the Lions’ all-time leader in career interceptions, stealing 62 enemy-passes over his 14-year career?

The 6-foot-1, 185 pound LeBeau benefited by playing alongside, at various points during his career, three of the greatest defensive secondary players of all-time in Dick “Night Train” Lane, Yale Lary, and Lem Barney. However, LeBeau was much more than an average player. . . . He had to be. That was because Dick was often the focal point of enemy quarterbacks looking to avoid the Hall of Famers who played around him. Because LeBeau studied his opponents so intently, he was one of the smartest defenders the Lions had. As a result “Dickie Bird,” as he was referred to by his teammate Night Train Lane, was able to snare many of the passes that came his way.

LeBeau went to three-straight Pro Bowls from 1964 to 1966. In addition, he earned all-pro honors twice (1964-65). He had a career best nine interceptions during the 1970 season, helping the Lions to their first playoff birth in 13 years. In addition, his 762 interception return yards ranks him third, behind teammates Barney and Lary, on the Lions’ all-time list.

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