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Larry Lacewell Never With Hogs, But Still an Arkansas Legend

Football will miss the legendary Arkansas coach and Dallas Cowboys executive who passed away Wednesday

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Larry Lacewell finally lost a fight.

He spent most of his life figuring out a way to come out on top, no matter what the odds were.

Lacewell, 85, passed away Wednesday after battling health issues for a few years. The guess is he kept his keen sense of humor to the very end.

"We can't let people know we don't hate each other," Lacewell said, laughing, to me on a radio show the last time I interviewed him.

Larry Lacewell

Lacewell was a native of Fordyce where he played high school football for the legendary Red Parker. I'm from Warren. The two schools, 25 miles or so apart, have been major rivals for over 100 years.

He played at Arkansas A&M, where he worked his way up to second team All-AIC before he went into coaching when another Fordyce native, Paul "Bear" Bryant brought him to Alabama.

When you're a Redbug, it's one for life as Lacewell said in radio commercials across the state for a pest control company. He'd been a Redbug, a Boll Weevil, a Sooner, a Red Wolf (even though they were called the Indians then) and a Cowboy.

But he always remembered his Southeast Arkansas roots.

The only time he coached a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks was in the 1978 Orange Bowl when he had been studying the most talented team in school history and knew what they were facing.

He couldn't get his good friend and boss, Barry Switzer, to even look at the film until it was too late.

The Hogs beat the No. 2 Sooners, 31-6, in a game that really wasn't that close.

"Talk about a team not be ready," he told me years later. "Our players and a lot of the coaches thought we were just going to roll to an easy win. You could tell we were going to get killed and that's what happened."

Lacewell went to Jonesboro, where he coached Arkansas State to the most wins in school history, then he took over as athletic director for a few years.

He led the Indians to 69 wins, two Southland Conference titles, and made four straight appearances in the 1-AA Playoffs. The 1986 Arkansas State squad reached the 1-AA National Championship Game. Lacewell coached five first-team All-Americans and 24 All-Southland Conference selections.

Everywhere he went, it seemed success followed him along.

When Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys, one of his first hires was the guy they called "Lace." He was friends with Jimmy Johnson and wasn't surprised when he ended up as the coach.

"It surprised me more when Jerry hired him," he said, jerking his thumb towards Switzer in an interview.

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At one time their relationship was broken. Their breakup in Norman wasn't pleasant and all the reasons for that have been well documented. It was patched up before they worked together with the Cowboys.

He became one of Jones' most trusted confidantes with the Cowboys. They also won three Super Bowls while he was there.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (right) and head coach Jimmy Johnson prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Fulton County Stadium.

They haven't been back there since he retired in 2004, returning to his native Arkansas.

Lacewell enjoyed retirement until health issues caught up with him. He was always good for a walk down memory lane or to just trade war stories.

Most of the headlines will reference as the Cowboys' director of scouting.

He was much more than that. Ask Jones. But he was also an Arkansas icon ... way before he landed with the Cowboys.

And that shouldn't be lost.


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