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Alumni Dinner

5-5-01, 7:20 p.m.


Friday night, it was dancing. Saturday night, it was dinner and a show.

In his first minicamp as Bengals head coach, Dick LeBeau is making sure he's leaving his unmistakable stamp on this team.

LeBeau invited a group of former Bengals to Saturday's opening practice and to dinner at the team's facility. While the current players ate, LeBeau called up each alum to stand next to him while he said a few words about him. Then LeBeau introduced him usually with a zinger to applause.

"We talk about family. We preach family," LeBeau said. "We think our alums are part of that family and we want to introduce them to our current players and just let them get to know some guys that I'm very proud of for what they have done for the franchise and they in turn are still identified with us."

LeBeau, a coach on both Cincinnati Super Bowl teams, did two things with the dinner. He educated his team that there has been success here with the help of Pro Bowlers (Max Montoya, David Fulcher), undrafted overachievers (Ken Moyer), smart players (Dave Lapham, Jimmy Turner, Rick Razzano) and cult heroes (Ickey Woods).

LeBeau and Bengals President Mike Brown also scored points with an alumni that has complained about feeling isolated from the team after their playing days.

When LeBeau called up Woods, he said, "If you thought I danced last night," referring to the head coach's Elvis appearance in front of the team meeting that opened minicamp.

Woods then did a few steps of the "Ickey Shuffle," to more applause.

"(LeBeau) gets it," said Lapham, the former guard and long-time Bengals radio analyst. "He's trying to build a family and every family has

grand parents. He's crossing the generations. He's doing so many things right. He started to set the tone last year and now that he's had a whole offseason, I think you can see all kinds of stuff."

Other alums who showed were Jim Breech, Eric Thomas, Solomon Wilcots, Mike Martin, and John Simmons. LeBeau also introduced Bengals all-time receiving tight end Rodney Holman, the newest addition to the coaching staff as the assistant strength coach.

"They ought to do more of this," said left tackle John Jackson, the Cincinnati prep product after dining with his boyhood heroes. "These guys should have a better idea of the history of this team."

LeBeau plans to have more get-togethers, with the next one slated for training camp.

"I think it makes a big difference for new guys if they get to meet the old players," Thomas said. "I think the organization has been going through a transition period with the move over here to the new stadium and they're sort of saying now we do respect how well and how hard those guys played and really helped build this place."

As the dinner broke up, Lapham found himself talking to linebackers Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons. Montoya embraced Richmond Webb in a Pro Bowl hug. Craig Yeast was talking to his clone from the '80s in Martin. Holman encouraged Sean Brewer, the rookie tight end taken in the third round. Wide receivers coach Steve Mooshagian spoke with Woods about their overlapping days in Fresno.

"I thought it was great, it was a great thing to do," said one of the guys who clapped the longest and laughed the loudest at the funny memories.

And then Mike Brown went to tell LeBeau so.

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