Saturday, October 11, 2014

SPORTS STORY >> Lacewell delights at HOF banquet

Leader sportswriter

Former Dallas Cowboys’ scouting director Larry Lacewell praised Cabot and its school district Tuesday night as guest speaker at the Cabot Panther Foundation’s Hall of Fame Banquet.

Held at the new Freshmen Academy, Lacewell, who is also legendary as the most successful football coach at Arkansas State University, compared Cabot to his hometown of Fordyce when he was growing up.

“I really think it’s a wonderful thing you people here are doing this evening,” said Lacewell. “To honor the people and citizens here in this community – I grew up in a wonderful town, Fordyce, Arkansas. It was a wonderful town in my day, and I recognize this in Cabot.

“To see this beautiful building and the school system, and all of the people that are involved in the school system, it’s a wonderful thing.”

Lacewell has been successful throughout his coaching career, regardless of where he was coaching and what position he held. Lacewell began his coaching career as a graduate assistant for legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at the University of Alabama. Bryant, also a Fordyce native, was a teammate of Lacewell’s father during their high school playing days at Fordyce.

After spending a year at Alabama, Lacewell spent the 1960 and 1961 seasons coaching the freshmen football team at ASU before spending the next several years as an assistant at schools such as Kilgore Junior College, which won a NJCAA national championship during his tenure, Wichita State, Iowa State and Oklahoma.

Lacewell spent eight seasons at Oklahoma, from 1969 to 1977. He was hired as the defensive coordinator in 1969, and in 1973, he became assistant head coach on Barry Switzer’s staff.

During Lacewell’s tenure at OU, the Sooners won two national championships, six Big Eight championships and had a 37-game winning streak.

In 1979, Lacewell took the head coaching position at Arkansas State, where he remained till 1989. In that stretch, he became the winningest coach in ASU history, winning 69 games, and he led the team to two Southland Conference championships and four consecutive appearances in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs, with the 1986 team making it all the way to the championship game.

Cabot coach Mike Malham’s father, Mike Malham Sr., was an assistant and defensive specialist on the Arkansas State staff from 1971 to 1984, working with Lacewell for his first six years at the school.

By the time Malham Jr. graduated high school from Little Rock McClellan, his father was the defensive coordinator at Arkansas State. Malham Jr. played linebacker on his father’s defense at Arkansas State, with his final season coming in 1975, when the team finished undefeated and nationally ranked.

“It’s a privilege for me to be here tonight and be a part of this here Hall of Fame,” Lacewell said to those in attendance Tuesday. “Needless to say, I have kept up with Cabot High School. They’re lucky to have him (Malham Jr.).”

After his final year at ASU, Lacewell left to become defensive coordinator for the University of Tennessee. In 1992, he joined the Dallas Cowboys organization, eventually serving 13 seasons on staff as director of both college and professional scouting.

“I spent a lot of time with Jerry Jones when I was with the Dallas Cowboys. I am the reason we won three Super Bowls, by the way,” Lacewell joked.

Lacewell retired from the Cowboys after the 2004 season, and Tuesday, of all the things he said he missed, he said college coaching was one of them.

“I loved college coaching,” Lacewell said. “I miss college coaching. I was lucky enough to be with some great coaches like coach Bryant. I made Barry Switzer a great coach,” he joked.

Lacewell has had various honors himself. He is a member of ASU’s Hall of Honor and Ring of Honor, the University of Arkansas-Monticello Hall of Fame, and in 1996, he was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

After his retirement from the Cowboys, he was honored by the Arkansas General Assembly in 2005.

“I know what a great feeling it was for myself to be part of all those things,” Lacewell said, “but I’m here tonight because this is about your honorees (Will Feland and Dr. James Hertzog).

“It’s not about Larry Lacewell, Arkansas State, the Arkansas Razorbacks – this is about the two people that you decided deserve this wonderful honor.”