Hall hits: Brown leads history lesson; LeBeau takes bow; Crocker rings

Updated: 10:30 p.m.

CANTON, Ohio - Bengals president Mike Brown gave some of his players an impromptu history lesson Saturday during the club's tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he saw some of them looking at the contracts of two of pro football's first African-American players.

Just moments before, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco snapped a Twitter shot of the $4,000 deals that Mike Brown's father reached with running back Marion Motley and nose tackle Bill Willis with Paul Brown's signature at the bottom.

With Robert Geathers, Quan Cosby and Adam Jones looking on, Mike Brown recalled as an 11-year-old how he would sneak up to the training camp dorm rooms of Willis, Motley and punter Horace Gillom.

"Those guys were my great heroes," Brown said. "Marion was a great back and Bill could play today. He was so fast. I remember a game we had to win against New York and a running back broke out in the open and Bill, a defensive lineman, ran him down. We held, kicked a field goal, and won."

Cosby had no idea.

"To know that you're connected to something like that in some way, it's really something," he said. "Something I didn't know, but I've seen a lot of things in here that I didn't know about."

BIG PLAY: Brown grabbed left tackle Andrew Whitworth and took him over to the offensive line videos and punched up Bengals Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Muñoz.

"Mike and I both said they need better video of him," said Whitworth with a laugh. "They've got a Hall of Fame lineman and all the shots are of the quarterback and the running back. But I guess that's the way it goes for offensive linemen."

One thing Whitworth didn't know: Muñoz caught seven touchdown passes in his career.

LEBEAU-SPEAK: As the Bengals left the Hall to board the bus to eat dinner on the way to their Cleveland hotel to prepare for Sunday's game here against the Cowboys, their former head coach poised to be inducted with the class of 2010.

LeBeau gave the folksy, eloquent speech you would expect from a 72-year-old who has always had the touch of a poet when he went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night on a typical steamy August evening in his native Ohio.

There was a minor upset when he made no Civil War allusions, but the civil war in the AFC North was on display.

"Man, this really is a great day to be alive," is how LeBeau started his speech, echoing his signature line as he looked upward to his late parents.  "Here we are. I'd like to thank my mom and dad for creating the family environment that led an ornery young guy grow up and maybe some day allowed to have a weekend happen for him like is happening right now."

This wasn't exactly a Bengalsfest even though LeBeau, the former Bengals head coach, has spent the majority of his 52-year NFL career in Cincinnati. In fact, it was the exact opposite. How could it not be? LeBeau, the Steelers defensive coordinator, looked to his right and saw the entire Pittsburgh team that had been jettisoned from camp in his honor.

"I'm being inducted as a player. Believe me, that makes me most proud. I did that for 14 years. But for the last 38 years, I've been a football coach," LeBeau said. "So to ask me to talk more in two minutes and not talk about my guys (the Steelers) over here, I'll tell you right now, it ain't gonna happen.

"The good thing for you folks is when I talk about them, you don't know who I'm talking about. We're not talking about the guys I played against. You would say, 'Who is that?' 'Who did he say?"

Given that he has led the Steelers defense to two Super Bowl titles in the last five seasons, it makes sense that he would talk more about Ryan Clark than Paul Brown.

But LeBeau did salute the Brown family for whom he coached for 18 years, the last three as head coach from 2000-2002.

"The owners I've worked for, played for, read like the Hall of Fame," Lebeau said. "Right now with the Rooney family. They have two in the Hall of Fame. I spent about 20 years with the Brown family in Cincinnati. If ever the word 'legendary' ever applied, I think the great Paul Brown certainly has that coming to his name. He operated within a 20‑mile radius of where we're standing for a long time."

LeBeau did reference one of his Bengals players in how unselfish the linemen have to be in a 3-4 defense, although LeBeau didn't anoint two-time Pro Bowler Tim Krumrie as the ideal nose tackle in a 3-4. He gave the nod to his current guy, Casey Hampton.

"I told Casey, 'You're a great player, but I had a nose tackle that actually led our team when I was in Cincinnati,' " LeBeau said. "Tim Krumrie led our team several times in tackles. Casey looked at me, you can't get anything over on him. 'You said your nose tackle led your team in defensive stops?'

"I said, 'More than once.' He said, 'Coach, there's no way you're running the same system that you're running with me.' He might be right."

LeBeau may have been inducted as a player, but he's known best for that flexibility and adjustment that led him to invent the zone blitz during the 1984 season with the Bengals. He's also known for having a tremendous relationship with players, and the ironic thing is that he used his own playing career to give them a little push and needle. He couldn't resist doing it in his speech as he gave props to his current secondary. He gave a nod to cornerback Ike Taylor.

"I might be off a little on this, Ike, but when I first came there, I don't think I started him in one game," LeBeau said. "Now he's started every game we've played for the last six years. Hasn't missed a game, hasn't missed a snap. That's a great record of durability and dependability.  Six straight years. Ike, all you got to do is go eight more, man, and you can catch me."

LeBeau became the NFL's oldest rookie head coach with the Bengals in 2000 at age 63, but he wasn't done when he wasn't retained at age 65. He saved the best part of his speech for last.

"If I would have gotten out of my life's work at 65 or 67, when they say is the age of retirement, here is what I would have missed, folks," he said. "I would have missed not one but two world championship football teams that I got to be a part of. That's these guys over here. I got to be a part of a No. 1 defense that statistically had the lowest numbers in the last 35 or 40 years.

"I had my number retired from my high school. Had a building named after me in my hometown. I made the Detroit Lions 75-year team. I was accepted into the Ohio State University Athletic Hall of Fame. Now tonight I guess when I sit down, get off this speaking, which I'm going to do, I'll be in the NFL Hall of Fame. My mother always said, 'Onward and upward, age is just a number.' "

CROCKER'S TAKE: Like many Bengals, safety Chris Crocker made his first Hall visit and it didn't take him long to figure out his favorite exhibit.

"Definitely the Super Bowl rings. And what's interesting is how they kept getting bigger," he said. "And when you walk in and see the pictures of this year's inductees around that ring (at the entrance), that's impressive. You leave a legacy if you make it this far."

SLANTS AND SCREENS

» Hope Bengals fans have a better night here Sunday than Saturday. Also inducted was the guy that tortured LeBeau's defense in Super Bowl XXIII with 215 yards on 11 catches. But Jerry Rice told the crowd of 19,300 he never had the perfect game.

» Bengals radio analyst Dave Lapham had a couple of good Lebeau stories on the trip over to the Hall.

He remembers the first time he met LeBeau at the 1974 Senior Bowl. LeBeau was heading into his second season as the special teams coach for the Eagles staff that coached the North and Lapham was just out of Syracuse.

"He told me, 'You're covering kickoffs, big boy,' " Lapham said. "He goes, 'You ever done that before?' I said, 'No,' and he said, 'Run as fast as you can and keep your eyes open.' "

Lapham also remembers Bengals assistant coach Boyd Dowler, a former receiver, saying that LeBeau was the hardest hitter he ever faced.

Lapham is disappointed that it didn't work out for LeBeau as a head coach because it took him 28 years to get the nod. But he thinks LeBeau's teams in Cincinnati were too young for his style.

"Dick's players love him and always will," Lapham said. "He treated you like a man and he expected you to reciprocate and act like a man. Unfortunately, not everybody did for him. I think he's incredible with veteran players. He's such a good teacher with his beliefs and his philosophy."

» Interesting vignette with Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens at the Hall. While waiting at the front for the tour to end, Owens found his former Dallas teammates parading in for their turn. This is the Cowboys club that cut ties with him after the '08 season when there was bad blood with quarterback Tony Romo.

Owens was friendly with several people that stopped and said hello, but he didn't give much attention to Romo and while he said hello to owner Jerry Jones and took his hand, it was a brief conversation.

» Also coming through was former Bengals backup quarterback Jon Kitna, now doing the same thing in Dallas. He's still tight with quarterback Carson Palmer, so when asked if the T.O. thing is going to work, he said, "It sounds like the quarterback likes it so I think so."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising