LeBeau, Grimm are voted into Hall of Fame

| Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010

Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and Scottdale native Russ Grimm were bestowed football's highest honor Saturday.

Former Steelers center Dermontti Dawson, meanwhile, will have to wait at least one more year to join them in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

LeBeau and Grimm, a former Steelers assistant head coach and offensive line coach, were among the seven people voted into the Hall of Fame yesterday. They are part of a 2010 class that is headlined by wide receiver Jerry Rice, the best player ever at his position, and Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

Those four will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio, along with defensive tackle John Randle, running back Floyd Little and linebacker Rickey Jackson, who, like Grimm, starred at Pitt.

LeBeau, who intercepted 62 passes while playing cornerback for the Detroit Lions from 1959-72, and Little were Hall of Fame veterans committee selections.

"It's a lifelong dream, really," LeBeau said. "I just cannot imagine anything else that could be any more rewarding for any individual who has made football, I've been fortunate enough to make football my life pursuit. Now, to have my name alongside all those great NFL players throughout history is an incredibly humbling honor and one that I do not take lightly."

LeBeau is third on the NFL's all-time interceptions list among players who spent their entire career at cornerback. His streak of 171 games played is still an NFL record for cornerbacks.

LeBeau got the call yesterday that many, including former Steelers great Rod Woodson, have said he deserved years ago.

"I just can't believe it, to be honest, and I am so much indebted to our current players and to the players who took me to the Super Bowl and kept my name current even though it's been a long, long time since I've played," LeBeau said. "I'm so grateful to you guys and the plug you gave me last year."

LeBeau will go into the Hall of Fame as a player, but he has also distinguished himself as a coach and innovator. He is considered the architect of the oft-copied zone blitz, and he recently completed his 51st consecutive season in the NFL as a player and a coach.

"Few men in the history of the NFL have contributed more to the league as a player and coach than Dick LeBeau," Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement released by the team. "All of us with the Steelers are thrilled with his selection."

Grimm also had to be elated after gaining entrance to football's most hallowed club as he had been a finalist for the honor four previous times.

Grimm starred at Southmoreland High School and Pitt and then distinguished himself on Washington's vaunted "Hogs" offensive line.

Grimm made the Pro Bowl four consecutive seasons (1983-86) as a guard and anchor on perhaps the best offensive line of its time. He played on three Super Bowl-winning teams during his 11-year career with the Redskins.

"I was lucky to be surrounded by a bunch of guys for a bunch of years and be on some good football teams," Grimm said. "I'm so excited, and it's a privilege to be a part of this class and all of the guys on that list are well-deserved."

Dawson, widely considered one of the top two centers of his era, made progress this year toward gaining football immortality.

He was named a finalist for the first time he became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2005.

The six-time All-Pro selection advanced when the list of 15 modern-day candidates was cut to 10 following a five-plus hour meeting of the 44-person selection committee.

Dawson did not make the final list of five modern-day candidates, all of whom along with LeBeau and Little, received at least 80 percent of the vote.

Jackson, who played for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers, made it to Canton despite not having been a finalist for the Hall of Fame prior to this year.

The six-time Pro Bowler will become the first person whose contributions were mainly with the Saints to make it into the Hall of Fame.

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