NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
Lem Barney and Dick LeBeau were teammates with the Detroit Lions 50 years ago.
Barney was impressed with LeBeau as a player. He’s perhaps even more impressed with his staying power in the NFL.
“Dick LeBeau, that guy is amazing,’’ Barney said of the Titans defensive coordinator, who announced last month he will return for his third season with the team, and his 59th year in the National Football League as a player or coach.
“Not only is he a great coach, but he’s a great person. The Titans, they are lucky to have him. Those players are gaining so much from being around a guy like that, learning from a guy like that.”
Barney and LeBeau were teammates from 1967-72 with the Lions, and they were quite a tandem in the secondary. LeBeau recorded 62 interceptions in his career, from 1959-72. Like Barney, who netted 56 interceptions while playing from 1967-77, he’s in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Dick played the right side, and I played the left side, and I learned a lot from Dick as a player,’’ Barney said. “He’s just a tremendously great guy...I remember when we used to play, and we’d call a blitz, Dick used to look at me and he’d say, 'Hey kid: Don’t let them get behind you.’ That’s what he called me the first three seasons, 'Kid.' We had a lot of fun in those days.”
Barney made his comments about LeBeau while on the red carpet at the NFL Honors in Houston. He said he called LeBeau just a few weeks ago to catch up.
Barney said he’s not surprised his buddy is still coaching.
LeBeau will turn 80 in September.
“Not at all,’’ Barney said of LeBeau’s longevity. “He’s an Ohio State guy, and he has been playing since he was a kid. He played 14 years in the league, and he had such an accomplished career as a player, and he’s had one as a coach, too.
“Dick just loves the game. He’s a dedicated coach to the game, a Hall of Famer. I don’t know if he’ll ever want to give it up.”