NASHVILLE, Tenn. — There's a tip jar outside Dick LeBeau's office at Saint Thomas Sports Park, with a sign just above it that reads: "Will Play For Tips." It was placed there in good humor by one of LeBeau's admirers, and the Titans defensive coordinator has many inside the facility, despite the fact the jar contained just $2.77 as of Wednesday afternoon.
The 78-year-old LeBeau smiled when he first noticed it there. Then he picked up his guitar and started playing again.
For a select few, yesterday was filled with mixed emotions, as the Titans left for Thursday night's game against the Miami Dolphins. While the game signals an end to the preseason, it also means LeBeau's guitar playing, singing, and songwriting days will now be put on hold.
It was considered a treat.
But it's time to focus 100 percent on football, something LeBeau loves more than music or golf, or any of the hobbies he happens to excel at doing. Yet LeBeau admits, he has a passion for music, and he has since he was a little boy.
"There's music in my family,'' said LeBeau, set to begin his 58thyear in the NFL as a player or a coach. "My aunt played the piano, and I've had family members in choir, music teachers. My dad played in a band. My brother is a professional musician. I mean, there was always something going on in the house pertaining to music.
"The musical gene kind of jumped me a little bit, but the good Lord gave me a little athletic ability. So I have no complaints."
It turns out LeBeau, a Hall of Fame defensive back who is regarded as one of the best defensive minds of all time, got some of that musical talent after all.
LeBeau has written nearly a dozen songs, and he's regularly played the guitar in his office this offseason. Occasionally, Titans assistant special teams coach Steve Hoffman joined him. LeBeau describes the music as "country, folk rock."
"I mostly do it in the offseason,'' LeBeau said. "It's just a period of relaxation. It is definitely one of my favorite pastimes. I just play for myself mainly, but I have played in front of people before and they'll say, 'I've never heard that song before.' And I tell them: 'You'll probably never hear it again either.' Song writing, it's not all that easy.
A look back at Dick LeBeau's first three years with the Titans. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
"But I enjoy it. I am not going to be down there on Broadway any time soon, I can tell you that. But yeah, I enjoy it."
Titans coach Mike Mularkey, whose office is down the hall from LeBeau's, has heard the music coming from the defensive coordinator's office.
"Yeah, I can hear it down the hallway,'' Mularkey said with a smile. "He has a good tune, definitely. It sounds pretty good. Now I'm not sure he's going to be at the CMA Festival next year, but he has a good tune.'"
In many ways, LeBeau has impressed those around him since joining the team prior to the 2015 season.
Last Christmas, LeBeau recited 'Twas the Night Before Christmas to the team. He stood before the entire team on Christmas Eve and recited the poem from memory for roughly 18 minutes, without skipping a beat.
This offseason, while on the golf course, he recorded a hole-in-one -- it was his 7th.
Last season, LeBeau was largely responsible for making changes to improve the Tennessee defense, and he's expecting bigger and better things this fall, when his singing and guitar playing will be put on hold -- but not his listening.
"I listen to all kinds of music,'' LeBeau said. "I love music, I really do. I'm not a big fan of opera, but anything else, any genre you want to name, I love it, and I'll have it on. My personal favorites are John Prine and Hayes Carll."
LeBeau went to see Carll perform in Nashville not too long ago. Since moving to town last year, LeBeau said he's been downtown to hear music a few times. He loves the city, and the energy around it, he said.
Football, meanwhile, still gets him going. The start of another season is music to his ears.
"There's no doubt, (playing the guitar) is something I do to relax a little bit,'' LeBeau said. "I've run out of time for my second career, so I'll stick to coaching, I guess. But I like music, and I like my songs."