Lett missed both free throws. "Almost went after the guy," he says.
To put The Fumble behind him, Lett looks resolutely forward. "I'm focusing on taking care of immediate business," he says. He could only get together with Beebe if the rendezvous were on a Wednesday, the only weekday the Cowboys don't hold conditioning workouts.
Yet for all his determination to look ahead, Lett cannot help but relive the play. "It pops up in my mind at night," he says. "What if I had held the ball a little bit longer? What if I had tucked it up and sprinted all the way in?" Deep breath. Sigh. "I wouldn't be sitting here."
The odd couple meet at a bagel joint near Beebe's condo. They are barely settled into their booth when Beebe says, "A lot of people in Buffalo have said to me, 'I'm glad you knocked the ball out of that guy's hand; he was showboating, rubbing it in our faces." I say. "Wait a second here. The guy's a defensive lineman, he's probably never scored, and here he is about to score a touchdown in his first Super Bowl! You don't know the guy, so you don't know if he's a hot dog.' I tell them, Leon."
"People come up to me in Dallas," Lett replies, "and they say, 'You shoulda knocked that Beebe out.' "
Beebe laughs—a trifle too hard. Eventually the talk turns to their college days. They are alumni, they discover, of two of the nation's more obscure football outposts, Emporia State and Chadron State, in the northwest corner of Nebraska. "How did you end up there?" asks Lett.
"It's kind of a long story," says Beebe. He tells it while they wait for their orders to arrive—French toast for Beebe; scrambled eggs, grits and white toast for Lett.
A three-sport star at Kaneland High in Maple Park, Ill., Beebe accepted a football scholarship to Western Illinois, where he lasted two weeks. "I lost 20 pounds," he tells Lett. "So I just said, 'This is ridiculous.' and left." (Beebe does not mention the role that his acute love-sickness for Diana Beckley, his girlfriend and wife-to-be, played in his decision to bail out.) Beebe went to Aurora (Ill.) University for a year, then spent three years hanging aluminum siding with his brother-in-law.
"Everything was going fine," he says, "but I'm a real religious person, and I felt that God meant for me to give football another shot."
Not one to take such divine suggestion lightly, in the spring of '86, Beebe drove to the Lake Forest, Ill., training camp of the Chicago Bears and requested an audience with Vince Tobin, the club's general manager. Tobin gently explained to Beebe that the Bears couldn't grant a tryout to everyone who walked in off the street. "So that fell through," says Beebe.