If they had named it Lee Hedges Stadium to honor a man strictly for his football coaching contributions, that would have been justified.
If they had named it for his overall contribution to athletics, that would have fit.
If they had named it for his influence on everyone who ever came to know him – not just those he coached – it certainly would have been appropriate.
And maybe this wasn’t the expressed reason, but do you know why the multi-purpose structure at the corner of Roma and Gator Drive is named for Lee Hedges? They did it for us, almost as much as they did it for him.
It’s because seeing the name “Lee Hedges” on the stadium sign makes everyone smile.
There are only a few instances in which naming a stadium or a building in honor of someone is so incredibly right. Too often, it’s done for the wrong reasons, whether it’s due to political pressure or a financial contribution.
When the name of Caddo Parish Stadium was changed to Lee Hedges Stadium in 2001, Hedges hadn’t coached a game in 16 years. Now it’s been almost 40.
But what it has done is ensure that this community will never forget a man who meant so much to so many.
What made it the perfect honor at the time was that Hedges had coached at many of the schools that predominantly play at the stadium. He had been a head coach at Captain Shreve, Woodlawn and Byrd, the three closest public schools in proximity.
But it goes such much deeper than Lee Hedges, football coach.
There is Lee Hedges, great athlete, who was an All-Stater at Fair Park and then became a two-sport athlete at LSU. There is Lee Hedges, who won 15 state championships as a high school tennis coach and was just as big a figure in the local tennis community as he was in the football world.
So diverse was his ability as a mentor that he coached Terry Bradshaw, who played in four Super Bowls, and Kay McDaniel, who played in six Wimbledons.
Greatness, it seems, follows greatness. No matter what the sport.
But with all the wins and championships and honors, it would be tempting to say that Lee Hedges was larger than life. And maybe he was, if you base it solely on accomplishments.
But as a human being, which is where Lee Hedges really made his mark, he was actually smaller than life.
He wanted nothing more than to just coach his players well and be a good husband and father. He never sought attention, unless it was for one of his athletes. Unless you were looking for him, you never knew he was there.
He was Old School before there was such a thing. More often than not, you’d see him in football pants at a practice, as if he were just a few moments away from running the dive play himself.
Not once, but twice, he turned a brand-new school (Woodlawn, then Shreve) into a state power before anyone knew what had happened. After a winless first season at Woodlawn in 1960, Hedges won 47 games over the next five seasons and played in the 1965 state championship game.
In his third and fourth seasons at Captain Shreve, he had back-to-back unbeaten regular seasons. In 1973, he had what might have been the greatest team ever produced by a Shreveport-Bossier school, as the Gators won the state championship with a 14-and-0-and-nobody-came-close record.
He is No. 1 in career coaching wins in Shreveport-Bossier (217), but he is also No. 1 in another category.
Nobody – nobody – will ever be as widely respected in local athletics. Ask anyone who played for him, ask anyone who covered him in the media, ask anyone who coached with him and, even better, ask anyone who coached against him.
And what many don’t realize is that Hedges respected all of them just as much.
The world has turned over a few times since the name was changed to Lee Hedges Stadium. Because of that, many of those who attend or participate in events there don’t really know the significance. To them, Lee Hedges is just a name on a sign in the end zone and under the press box.
But to everyone else, it is a reminder of a man who honored more than the game or his profession.
He honored us all.
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