Humble Hedges Left Mark in Prep Football
LSU Sports Interactive
By Jason Pugh
The Shreveport Times
Editor's Note: Lee Hedges, a former LSU football player, will be one of eight sports figures inducted Saturday into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches. Earlier this week, LSUsports.net ran a portrait of another LSU inductee, pitcher Ben McDonald. For further information on the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, go to www.lasportshall.com.
As a high school football coach, Lee Hedges was extremely good to Caddo Parish.
In 1973, Hedges was the coach as Captain Shreve captured the Class 4A state football championship, making him the last Shreveport public high school football coach to win a state championship in the highest classification.
Listen to Hedges, though, and the 2010 Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee makes sure he is not the focus of anything.
"Caddo Parish has been good to me," Hedges said. "They gave me the opportunity to be a head coach at a young age. After leaving the parish, I came back and they gave me another head coaching job. They gave me a lot of opportunities and I appreciate it very much."
Hedges certainly made the most of those opportunities. In addition to coaching future four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Terry Bradshaw at Woodlawn High School, Hedges and his staff molded an ultra-talented Gators group into Shreveport's last public large-school state football champions.
That title is the cornerstone of a remarkable resume that has seen the former LSU star emerge as the greatest prep football coach in Shreveport-Bossier history, and carried him to his pending induction in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 26. For more information and to purchase tickets to the Induction Dinner and Ceremonies, visit the www.lasportshall.com website or call 318-238-4250.
Hedges coached three different Shreveport public schools into state championship contests - Fair Park in 1958, Woodlawn in 1965, and Captain Shreve in 1973.
With Bradshaw at the helm, Hedges coached the Knights to the 1965 championship game before losing to Sulphur.
That season was his final one at Woodlawn as Hedges left to take an assistant football coaching job at Louisiana Tech University. It was there, Hedges said, he began to refine his coaching style.
"I was with coach (Joe) Aillet for just one year, but I learned a lot about analyzing film," Hedges said. "He'd want you to find out what McNeese does on third-and-10 in any given situation. In doing so, you went over it again and again."
Thus began Hedges' love affair with film study - a trait not lost on his assistant coaches or his players.
"I'd watch him study the game and it fascinated me," said Bo Harris, a 1970 Shreve graduate who played collegiately at LSU then 10 years in the NFL with Cincinnati and Buffalo. "The mental part carried me through my career where the physical part didn't carry me. That was instilled upon me by him."
Harris is one of several future NFLers groomed by Hedges in his tenure as head coach at three Shreveport high schools. In 27 seasons as a high school head coach, Hedges won 217 games and posted 24 winning seasons, reaching the playoffs 14 times and capturing eight district championships.
His 217 victories remain the most in Shreveport-Bossier City high school football history despite the 26 years that have elapsed since the end of his 18-year tenure at Captain Shreve.
While at Shreve, Hedges set the standard for teams in the city and, in 1973, the state. His Gators allowed only 13 points in 10 regular-season games and finished the 14-0 season with a victory over Glen Oaks in the state championship game.
"You work so many years to get to the finals," Hedges said. "We went a couple of other times and it looked easier to get there. Then it was (eight) years before we made it to another final. It felt like a dream. They felt like they could win it. I wasn't always sure it would happen. I remember it very well. When you're a part of only one, it stands out in a hurry."
Hedges' lone state championship was a long time coming, but, in many respects, he was ahead of his time. Today many coaches at all levels of football are noted film buffs.
Hedges, however, fell in love with dissecting film, something that helped him take Shreve from a 1-7 season in 1967 to the state championship six years later.
"That's something I really liked to do, study film and pick out what could help the team win," Hedges said. "I doubt if I studied more (than today's coaches), but we had those 16 mm films most of the time when I coached. If you had good film, you could see everything."
Even without the benefit of film, Hedges was blessed with the vision to pick apart an opposing team in the heat of battle.
"We had some tight games with them in the early '70s when I was at Neville," fellow Louisiana Sports Hall of Famer Chick Childress said. "If you had a weakness, he could find it. One thing I remember in particular was him slipping backs through the line and getting them out in pass patterns. We had to depend on our linebackers to pick guys up out of the backfield. That caused us a lot of problems."
Before he was a coach, Hedges caused opposing coaches headaches in three sports while at Shreveport's Fair Park High School.
His athletic career continued at LSU where he played both football and baseball.
Hedges' baseball success had him contemplating which sport meant more to him.
"Football was really what I loved more than baseball, but I played summer baseball every year," Hedges said. "I went to a tryout camp with the Yankees in Joplin, Mo., after my sophomore year at LSU. I had a chance to decide which one I liked the most. I chose football.
"I love baseball, but after you play in Tiger Stadium, there's nothing like it so I went back for my last two years at LSU."
Hedges did play a couple more baseball seasons with the Baton Rouge Red Sticks of the Evangeline League, but football remained in his heart.
After finishing his two-sport career at LSU, Hedges went to work on the side of the game that sent him into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
"I was so beat up after playing football at LSU that I didn't want any more of that," Hedges said. "I helped coach the freshmen at LSU and I came back to Fair Park and got started there."
His time at Fair Park was the start of something grand. From Fair Park, Hedges went to Byrd as head coach, where he took the Yellow Jackets to the 1956 state championship game.
After four years at Byrd, Hedges took the head coaching job at Woodlawn. Hedges and the Knights went 0-9 in their first year together.
As was his pattern, however, he turned the team around quickly. Hedges did so by building a coaching staff filled with talent.
Four of Hedges' assistants at Woodlawn - A.L. Williams, Ken Ivy, Billy Joe Adcox and Jerry Adams - later became high school head coaches with Williams succeeding him as the Knights' leader.
"He was very well-organized," Williams said. "His practices were well-planned. We spent so many minutes on one thing then another. He was heading all that up. He had to get four new coaches together. The four of us had never coached together. He'd never coached with any of them. I can't imagine how hard it was for him."
It was hard for the Knights, as Woodlawn was held scoreless until the seventh game of the 1960 season. Five years later, Hedges had his second team in a state championship game.
A lot of that had to do with Hedges' even-keeled demeanor, something that never changed, regardless of who or where Hedges coached.
Hedges' reputation was well-burnished by the time he reached Captain Shreve.
"I moved here the summer before my sophomore year in high school," Harris said. "My father and I basically picked coach Hedges out to play for. He was the master of motivation through positive reinforcement. It was a core-shaping of my athletic career. Coach Hedges knew how to do it. You wanted to please the man. You put out all the effort just to hear him say, 'That a boy.'"
Hedges also served a dual purpose at Captain Shreve, coaching the Gators' tennis team to a total of 15 state championships.
He also was elected president of the Louisiana High School Coaches Association in 1973.
Hedges always is quick to deflect credit and shoulder blame, but in 2001, Caddo Parish gave the venerable coach, who still teaches tennis lessons at Shreveport's Pierremont Oaks Tennis Club, the ultimate honor - it changed the name of Caddo Parish Stadium to Lee Hedges Stadium.
"He didn't want any of the accolades or credit," said Williams, who will be his former boss' presenter. "He always gave that to someone else. He was 100 percent sincere in that. He appreciated the people and the students and he was one who should have a stadium named after him. The athlete always came first. I can't tell you how much I think of him. We couldn't be closer as coaches than we were."
Even when handling voting duties, Hedges tended to put his student-athletes ahead of himself.
"When we'd go to the high school athletic association, he would always vote for what was best for the student and what was best for the game," Williams said. "There were a lot of people who would vote for what would help them. He was the type of guy you want to work with and you want to be leading. He was a natural leader. He just didn't have an ego. It wasn't about what he could get."
The induction into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame is the second such honor for the former Fair Park All-State halfback.
In 1987, Hedges was inducted into the Louisiana High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Ever humble, Hedges credited his wife, Nell, for being his backbone.
"She taught 27 years alongside me and helped raise (sons) Russell and Doug," Hedges said. "I've had the good fortune of having some sound backing at home."
That backing - along with the teachings that propelled the last Shreveport large-class state football championship - helped lead Hedges into his second hall of fame.
"It's a real honor," Hedges said. "I wasn't that good to tell you the truth. I had some good help, but nobody enjoyed it more than me. They may care, but not as much as I did about having the players having a chance to win and develop some other characteristics. When you go in a place and the guy looks at your credit card and asks, 'Is the stadium named after you?' It's a real honor. It can't help but be. I'm proud of everyone who was with me and even those we played against.
"They made it better."