Bob Ledbetter is a man who wears many hats. He helps Texas high schools locate and hire athletic directors and football coaches though his company, Championship Search Firm. He is also an associate with Stream Energy. When he isn’t working he stays busy watching his grandkids play sports.
But it wasn’t so long ago that Ledbetter made his name as the head football coach of the Southlake Carroll Dragons. Ledbetter coached in Southlake from 1979-1996 and gained a reputation for being one of the most dominant coaches in Texas.
Ledbetter’s Dragons went 16-0 three times and won state championships in 1988, 1992 and 1993. They also won 208 games, never had a losing season and broke the national record of 72 straight regular season wins in 1993. Ledbetter was named Texas Coach of the Year three times and also served as Southlake Carroll’s athletic director from 1996 to 2002.
Yet Ledbetter doesn’t want to be remembered as someone who filled the school’s trophy cases. He said his main mission was to mold boys into men with integrity.
“I think athletics are so much more than winning and state championships,” said Ledbetter, who will be inducted into the Texas High School Football hall of Fame Saturday. “It’s all about preparing young men for life. I want them to be the best fathers and husbands they can possibly be.
“The coaching accolades and trophies are all going to be tarnished and gone someday. But the things these kids picked up in our program that made them successful in life is what’s really important.”
Ledbetter didn’t want to just pay lip service to these principles. He gained a reputation for demanding academic excellence from his athletes so much that Carroll twice received the UIL’s Lone Star Cup for the state’s best athletic and academic programs.
“I expected my students to compete academically the same as they did athletically,” Ledbetter said. “By that I mean if you’re a straight A student you better make straight A’s but if you’re a C student, I’m just as proud of you if that’s who you are. But you’re going to be the best you can be. We’re never going to accept mediocrity.”
Ledbetter was an athlete in his own right. He played football, baseball and ran track at Southeastern Oklahoma State. But he said those athletic experiences probably had little bearing on his coaching success. Instead it was the quality of people at Southlake and their passion for helping the students that led to their success.
“I think as a young coach you have to get into a program that has successful people and good people,” Ledbetter said. “You’ve got to be able to teach kids to believe in themselves. You’ve got to take average kids and teach them they can be anything they want to be. You’ve got to have a passion for the game and kids and you have to realize none of it is about you. It’s all about the kids and the program.”
That passion for mentoring kids fueled Ledbetter as a coach. He saw football as a tool to teach his athletes how to overcome adversity and succeed in life.
“I think one of the greatest thing a kid can learn is they’re going to get knocked down but they learn how to get up,” Ledbetter said. “And as long as they keep getting up in life they’re going to be OK. But so many kids never face adversity, so football is a great game because it teaches people a lot more about life.”
Ledbetter and his wife, Sue, still live in Southlake and stay involved with the school when they can.
“This place means a great deal to me and I’m still very concerned with what they’re doing,” Ledbetter said. “I don’t work with them in any kind of official capacity but I have lunch every week with Coach (Hal) Wasson and just catch up with everything going on.”
Ledbetter called coaching a great fraternity and has tremendous respect for his predecessors and former rivals, including Art Briles. Ledbetter was Southlake’s athletic director when Briles’ Stephenville team beat the Dragons in Texas Stadium.
“The team that won had a good shot of going to the state championship and it came down to the last second,” Ledbetter said. “I respect Art a great deal.”
Despite all his accolades and success, Ledbetter said he was truly stunned when he learned of his upcoming induction into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
“I’m not trying to be cliché, but honestly and truly, this was a complete surprise to me,” Ledbetter said. “There’s a lot of great, great coaches in the state of Texas and this is probably the last thing I ever anticipated happening. I’m truly honored.”
TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
What: This is the sixth in a series of profiles on the inductees to the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
Who: The Class of 2016 includes Stamford’s Kenneth West, Katy’s Gary Joseph, SA Lee’s Linus Baer, Euless Trinity’s Mike Baab, broadcaster Craig Way, Southlake’s Bob Ledbetter, Houston Madison’s Vince Young, West-Orange Stark’s Kevin Smith and University’s LaDainian Tomlinson.
Tickets: For ticket to Saturday’s banquet, contact Tiffany Wilkins at email@example.com or call 210-290-8570.