sports 4 days ago

Ex-Seahawks strength guru gets Super Bowl coach to help support youth program

The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.) — Todd Milles The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

July 17--OCEAN SHORES -- When Dana LeDuc first started working as the Seattle Seahawks strength and conditioning coach in 1995, he began enjoying life in the NFL.

He even bought an oceanside cabin for nearly $50,000 some three hours away -- at Ocean Shores in Grays Harbor County.

"I was here a couple of years, and liked it more and more," LeDuc said. "It was nice. Driving through those gates, all the stress was lifted off of you. It was a great place to come and relax."

On each trip, he began noticing more and more what was going on in Grays Harbor County.

"Life was good in Seattle," LeDuc said. "But you'd drive through parts of Grays Harbor, it was kind of depressed.

"I told my dad, 'One day, I am going to give back and do something.' "

Now 64 and retired, LeDuc, a former Washington High School track and field standout, not only upgraded his house in Ocean Shores to live in during the summer and fall months, he also adopted a football program at Hoquiam High School.

He has donated plenty of instructional hours to teenagers in that program, and he has donated plenty of equipment given to him from the two NFL teams he worked for, the Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams.

And last weekend, LeDuc organized his sixth charity golf tournament to raise money for Grays Harbor Youth Athletics, inviting some of his closest friends from the NFL to not only play in it, but attend his one-day Sunday camp at the high school.

In the past five years, LeDuc has helped raise nearly $100,000 for his charity.

"It is bigger than I thought it would be, really," LeDuc said. "People down here are very warm, giving and generous people."

Some noteworthy former NFL players have come out to support it: Kenneth Sims, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft out of Texas, flies out every year to help LeDuc. Others include Ray Ogas and Guy Bingham. Former UW and Puyallup High School receiver Dane Looker played in it one year. Ex-Notre Dame running back Phil Carter came out this year.

LeDuc also has had his share of former Seahawks attend: Running back Chris Warren, center Art Kuehn and linebacker Charlie McShane, who also lives in Ocean Shores.

Current assistant strength and conditioning coach Mondray Gee was part of the group this year.

But the headliner was somebody LeDuc had been asking to visit for years: Former NFL coach Dick Vermeil, who was with Philadelphia, St. Louis and Kansas City before retiring at the end of the 2005 season.

After Dennis Erickson was fired by the Seahawks at the end of the 1998 season, LeDuc also lost his job.

It did not take long for Vermeil to snag LeDuc to pair with Chris Clausen to revamp the Rams' strength and conditioning program.

In 1999, LeDuc's only season on Vermail's staff, the Rams went 13-3, then won the Super Bowl over the Tennessee Titans.

Now retired, as you can imagine, Vermeil is often invited to charity tournaments of his former players and coaches all over the country.

"I try and pick out two or three events a year that I go and support, because many of them come and support my tournament in the Philadelphia area," said Vermeil, now 80.

LeDuc had asked Vermeil on previous occasions. This time, the legendary coach accepted.

"Probably in March, he called me back. I remember, because I was coaching (track) out at Texas A&M-Corpus (Christi)," LeDuc said,. "I was out on the field, windy as heck. And I was jumping for joy. There was nobody out there as I was waiting for the (shot put and discus) throwers. I just started calling people."

Vermeil was picked up at Sea-Tac Airport on Friday night by former Washington State University star Jack Thompson, who also was in the charity tournament. The two drove to Ocean Shores that night.

And Vermeil was on the first tee at Ocean Shores Golf Course at 11:30 a.m. Saturday with PGA club professional Ronnie Espedal, Espedal's son and another local from the golf club.

"I am really pleased I was able to come this year," Vermeil said. "Dana is a special guy. And the older you get, the more you realize how many obligations you have to the people who have helped you become successful. Dana was instrumental in us turning that whole (St. Louis) program around. And this is my way of saying, 'Thank you!' "

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442, @ManyHatsMilles

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