RUSTON, La. (KTVE) — On Wednesday, NBC 10’s Chris Demirdjian visited with NFL Hall of Famer Fred Dean.
After graduating from Louisiana Tech, Dean’s career took him to the Chargers and 49ers.
He discussed seeing one of his former teams, San Francisco, win the NFC Championship over Green Bay en route to their date with the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.
“I knew as soon as [the 49ers] got to [Aaron] Rodgers, it would be a piece of cake, ” says Dean.
The intuition of 49ers legend Fred Dean was correct. San Francisco sacked Green Bay to advance to the team’s first Super Bowl since the 2012 season.
“I knew they would dominate [the Packers], because of the defense they had.
Dean, the NFL’s defensive player of the year from 1981, is pretty familiar with disturbing offenses. But, it all traces back to his youth, where he was quite the troublemaker.
“I got some of my best training from my mother, ” Dean reflects. “You know I would do things. I would have to beat my mom home from the buses. You know all that, because of all the trouble I’d get into.”
He’d eventually channel that energy into football. He first played the sport his sophomore year at the segregated Lincoln High School. Following integration, he moved to Ruston as a junior. He soon got the attention of coaches at Grambling and Louisiana Tech. Choosing one over the other was difficult.
“I talked to a lot of the assistant coaches at Grambling when they were recruiting, ” remembers Dean. “I ended up at Tech. I talked to the head coach and defensive line coach. And, I felt comfortable with what they were telling me. I never got to talk to Eddie Robinson when I was being recruited.”
He ultimately elected to play for the Bulldogs. During his time at Tech, he earned an All-Southland Conference award as a defensive tackle. Despite his success in Ruston, Dean initially didn’t like his chances of playing professionally.
“I’d haul logs and pulp wood in the days coming, ” says Dean. “I thought I’d buy me a pulp wood truck and get to doing that. Get my license for driving big rigs. Just go to work.”
He did what was necessary to catch the eye of the San Diego Chargers. The team selected him in the second round of the 1975 NFL Draft. During his rookie season, he finished with 93 tackles and seven sacks.
“I didn’t realize how good I was, ” Dean reflects. “When you go in as a rookie and you play in a game, and you end up taking that guy’s spot it makes you realize, ‘Oh, I’m much better than I thought I was.'”
His success was proven by being selected to four different Pro Bowls. Dean’s career took him to San Francisco, where he won two Super Bowls. He was paired with someone named Joe Montana.
“[Joe] was a down to earth person, ” Dean remembers. “And, I felt comfortable with him. There was this movie on, I looked at it. I went to call him ‘Cool Hand Joe’. He could zip it. He could scramble.”
By 1985, Dean made the difficult decision to hang up the cleats.
“I’d get those really bad headaches, ” says Dean. “And, now they talk about concussions, and that kind of stuff. My mother and father were still living. Mom’s gone on. But, dad he’s still living. It’s time that I give them more time.”
23 years after retirement, he got the call – to the Hall of Fame.
“It was an enlightening thing for me, ” Dean recalls. “For me, I had been out of the league for a few years. I didn’t let it bother me. I played the game, because I loved the game. If I was never inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame would one day come for me.”
Nowadays, he’s traded the pads for preaching.
“I was in the hospital one day. I prayed in the hospital that day, ” remembers Dean. “Something came to me and it said, ‘Do my will.’ I knew the time would come where I would stop speaking for myself and speak to the Lord.”
Fred Dean, the two-time Super Bowl champ wouldn’t mind seeing a sixth Lombardi trophy in San Francisco.
“When they’re winning, I can brag on them. Even if they’re not winning, I can brag on them, ” says Dean. But the bottom line is they’re doing pretty good for themselves.”
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