High School Hall of Fame profile: Bobby Lackey was legend of Texas Valley

Bobby Lackey quarterbacked Texas to a share of the SWC title in 1959.

As a skinny high school freshman in 1952, Bobby Lackey experienced his first taste of Texas high school football.

The way it turned out, it’s no wonder he came back for more.

Lackey did the kicking for his hometown team in Weslaco that year, and in early November the coach sent him in to attempt the potential game-winning point-after kick against the Panthers’ archrival Donna.

Lackey made the kick, and a legend was born.

“Donna was a very big rival,” said Lackey, who will be inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame on April 30. “We played that game each year on what was called Armistice Day back then, and we’d play it at like 3 in the afternoon, so the whole Valley would come out. . . . To win that game was huge. We ended up winning district, and that was the first time we’d done that since 1948.”

Lackey would only solidify his legacy over the next three years. He added the starting quarterback and punting jobs to his duties as a sophomore, and by the time he was a senior his reputation had ventured out of the Valley to spread all across the state.

In Lackey’s senior year of 1955, Weslaco won its first 13 games of the season before eventually falling to Hillsboro, 20-7, in the state semifinals.

“We had a pretty awesome group of seniors,” Lackey said. “Football, basketball, baseball — we did it all. That football team still gets talked about as one of the best to come out of the Valley.”

While still in high school, Lackey had fallen in love with Austin, which he considered a sports mecca, what with the city playing host to so many high school state championship events. So it wasn’t a big surprise when he signed to play football for the University of Texas.

“I just kind of thought with the sports atmosphere there, why would you go anywhere else?” Lackey said.

Lackey’s arrival at Texas coincided with Darrell Royal’s debut as head coach, and though Royal didn’t recruit Lackey, the quarterback would quickly gain the coach’s favor. And just like in high school, one of Lackey’s first big moments was a kick, as he booted the game-winning field goal in a 9-7 victory over Texas A&M in 1957.

“I punted and kicked all the PATs and field goals, because I think it was just expected of the quarterbacks back then,” Lackey said. “I remember once when they were recruiting a quarterback, Coach Royal asked him, ‘Do you kick?’ When the kid said no, Darrell said, ‘I thought all quarterbacks kicked.’”

Lackey turned out to be far more than a special teams specialist. He quarterbacked the Longhorns to a share of the 1959 Southwest Conference title — Royal’s first at UT — and led the team in scoring in both the ’58 and ’59 seasons.

In his senior year, Lackey also gained a bit of unforeseen fame when a photo of him walking up the tunnel at the Cotton Bowl after a win over Oklahoma appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Standing next to him in the photo was his future wife, Judy.

Following college, Lackey signed a free-agent contract worth $11,000 annually with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but before the season even began he returned home to Texas to take a position with his father-in-law’s produce company.

Lackey, 73, worked in agriculture for 40 years before retiring in 2001.

He lives in Spring now, but still maintains a home in Weslaco, where he remains a local icon. In fact, the Weslaco Panthers now take the field on Friday nights in an impressive venue known as Bobby Lackey Stadium.

“That was pretty awesome, pretty incredible,” Lackey said. “Before that, they had a gym named after me. I’ve had some pretty nice honors in my lifetime, and this (Hall of Fame induction) really just tops it all off.”

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