Anyone over the age of 35 will immediately know the name, Frank LeMaster. From 1974-1983, he was a mainstay on the Eagles Defense. Drafted by the Eagles in the 4th round out of Kentucky in the 1974 draft, he would go on to receive much acclaim. For four years he led the Eagles in tackles and was voted the Team MVP in 1975. He was recipient of the NFL Man of the Year Award in 1982, the same year he was voted into the Pro Bowl. And of course, he was a member of the 1980 NFC Championship Team that went on to play in Super Bowl XV against the Oakland Raiders.
Like many former Philly athletes, Frank remained in the area after his playing days came to an end. I had a chance to catch up with Frank a few days ago to get his thoughts on a myriad of topics including his take on the upcoming Eagles season.
SO: Thanks so much for your time, Frank. I know youâ€™re a busy man these days.
FL: No problem, Steve. Itâ€™s my pleasure.
SO: Ok, have to start with some questions about the 1980-81 season. Tell us about that special season and team.
FL: (laughs) Yeah, I figured that. Most people want to talk about that team. We had great chemistry and spent a lot of time together on and off the field, Coach Vermeil had assembled a core of about 15 players who led the team by example and Vermeil made us the toughest and best-conditioned team in the NFL.
SO: What were your first impressions of Coach Vermeil?
FL: I thought he looked really young but after the first team meeting with him, I could tell his coaching style was going to make a big difference and it did.
SO: Ok, put us in the moment: Jan. 11, 1981, Eagles vs. Cowboys. NFC Title Game. On the Eagles 2nd offensive play of the game, Wilbert Montgomery runs 42 yards for a TD. Describe the emotion and atmosphere on the sidelines as this very infamous Eagles play unfolded.
FL: That was a great play but I knew we were going to win the game when we were walking down the tunnel before the game. You could see such great intensity and emotion on each playerâ€™s face, my adrenaline was pumping so much I couldnâ€™t feel my legs.
SO: Who were some of your football heroes growing up?
FL: I was a big Cleveland Brown fan and Jim Brown was my favorite player. I was a running back/linebacker most of my life until I was a junior at University of Kentucky at which time I switched to linebacker. I loved how Jim ran with such power and explosiveness.
SO: How has the game of football changed since your playing days?
FL: Todayâ€™s football players are more physically advanced due in part to the evolution of man/athletes being more focused on training for specific sports at a much younger age. Today thereâ€™s much better training techniques, attention to nutrition and better coaching. However, I do not believe they are as physically and mentally tough as former players because todayâ€™s athletes are much more pampered at all age levels.
SO: Describe the greatest single moment in the NFL.
FL: My greatest moment in the NFL was â€œThe Miracle of the Meadowlandsâ€ This was a play where our defensive unit refused to give up, causing a fumble that led to a win which fueled our confidence enabling us to go to the 1978 Playoffs for the first time in 18 years, which ultimately led to our first Super Bowl appearance in 1981.
SO: Who was the best all around player you played with?
FL: Wilbert Montgomery was one of the most dedicated, toughest, most-explosive players I ever played with.
SO: Who was the best all around player you played against?
FL: I would say the most dominating player was Earl Campbell of the Houston Oilers. When you went up against Earl you better have you act together. If you didnâ€™t hit him low and just right, he would run over you.
SO: Do you still follow the Eagles? If so, give us your scouting report for the 2009-10 Eagles.
FL: I am still an Eagles nut and go to the games every year and watch them on TV when they are on the road. Unfortunately, I believe last year was our best shot at winning a Super Bowl. We have lost several great players and team leaders during this off-season. I believe the Eagles will be 9-7 this year. Losing a great coach like (Defensive Coordinator) Jim Johnson is a great loss and he will be hard to replace. The Eagles coaching staff has to get better at play-calling, making game day adjustments and clock management in order to have a shot at the playoffs.
SO: Tell us what youâ€™re doing these days.
FL: I am a Senior Sales Representative for FieldTurf. I sell and install synthetic turf for high schools, youth clubs, parks and recreation, colleges and NFL/FIFA soccer teams worldwide. FieldTurf is the inventor of the newest type of synthetic turf known as â€œinfill turfâ€ which is used for high performance playing surfaces for sports such as football, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey, rugby and general recreation. FieldTurf has installed fields in 46 countries and we currently are installing 7 out of every 10 fields in America.
For more info on Field Turf, check out www.FieldTurf.com
Very special thanks to Dan Latta, Jr. for making this interview possible.