Rooney remembers Unitas and Steel Curtain; LeBeau talks Thanksgiving football


Courtesy of Detroit Lions

(Detroit Lions sack Bart Starr on Thanksgiving Day, 1962. Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Talk of Fame Network

Pittsburgh Steelers’ owner Dan Rooney presided over one of the greatest dynasties in pro football history, but he tells the Talk of Fame Network this weekend it might have started sooner if he hadn’t cut a rookie quarterback in 1955 — a guy who’d beaten him out for first team all-city in Pittsburgh five years earlier.

“Stupidity!” Rooney said was the reason the Steelers let Johnny Unitas go without allowing him to take a single snap during training camp, a coaches’ decision Rooney opposed. “They never gave him a chance.”

Rooney also recalls the Steelers’ dynasty of the mid-1970s in our ongoing dynasty series and the player who was its backbone – Mean Joe Greene – as well as those knockdown, drag out fights with the Oakland Raiders that led to four Super Bowls, 400 fights and a lawsuit.

Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau also joins the show. talking about both those Steelers’ teams and his days as a Hall-of-Fame defensive back with the Detroit Lions. When we think Lions, we think Thanksgiving Day football and Lions vs. the Packers. So does LeBeau.

“For America, Thanksgiving and football kind of go together,” LeBeau said after recalling the most famous Thanksgiving game in NFL history, the Lions’ 1962 26-14 mauling of the undefeated Packers. That day Detroit sacked Hall-of-Fame quarterback Bart Starr 11 times. When TOF asked former Packer guard Jerry Kramer about the game a few weeks back he said, “The Lions guessed right all day long.”

Asked about that LeBeau chuckled before saying, “Time has a way of eroding Jerry’s memory…I have never been in a locker room that was as ready to play football as we were that Thanksgiving Day.”

Fifteen years later, while working as an assistant under Starr in Green Bay, LeBeau had a constant reminder of what the Lions had done that Thanksgiving Day.

“Down in his rec room (Starr) had a huge picture, I mean a big picture framed of him getting sacked there with eight Lions draped all over him,” LeBeau said. “Gives you a little insight into Bart. That kept him in touch with himself.”

Also on this week’s show, Jimmy Johnson recalls the odd ending and the missing coach that affected Doug Flutie’s famous “Hail Mary” pass that beat Johnson’s University of Miami Hurricanes 30 years ago Sunday. Our own Dr. Data – Rick Gosselin – explains why the 9-1 Cardinals have a long way to go before becoming the first home team to host a Super Bowl because the season really begins at the 10-week mark. He also states the case for Harvey Martin, one of the greatest pass rusher never to be discussed for Hall of Fame entry; Ron Borges says the start of the Steelers’ dynasty was bogus and Clark Judge recalls great Thanksgiving Day football feasts and faces the music in our two-minute drill.

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