“Of all the area’s greats, (Bobby) Lackey ranks near the top.”
That’s how the RGV Sports Hall of Fame’s website leads off its profile of the former Weslaco athlete and the person Weslaco ISD named its high school football stadium after in 2002.
Lackey, 83, died Thursday at John Knox Village in Weslaco.
Lackey was a three-year starter at quarterback and punter for the Panthers in the mid-1950s. Under center, he led the Panthers to the state semifinals in 1955, as the Panthers compiled a 13-0 record before falling to Hillsboro.
Lackey was a two-time all-state quarterback and an All-American, according to rgvshof.net, where he was inducted in 1990. He was also inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 2011 and the UT Hall of Fame in 1977.
Lackey’s eldest son, John, said that his dad had heart issues and a procedure for a pacemaker about six years ago. But it was losing his wife that proved too much to bear.
“But the main problem was a broken heart — he was married for 63 years,” John Lackey said, adding that his father moved back from Houston to live with him right after his wife died May 24, 2020. “Honestly, she took care of him and did everything for him. He was lost without her.
“This was his home and he always called it home. He was glad to be back home and he finished it off the way he wanted. He just missed her more than he wanted to remain here.”
Lackey went on to play at the University of Texas, under head coach Darrell Royal and quarterbacked the Longhorns to a share of the 1959 Southwestern Conference title. He led the Longhorns in scoring in 1958 and 1959.
“Weslaco ISD is saddened by the news of Valley legendary, multisport star Bobby Lackey’s passing. Lackey’s legacy with the Weslaco Panthers and Texas Longhorns is well-established. He excelled in football, basketball and baseball,” the Weslaco school district said in a news release Thursday. “Lackey is best known for taking the 1955 football team to the Class 2A state semifinals, earning him First Team All-State honors. Lackey won multiple championships and numerous honors in baseball and basketball where he was named First Team All-State.”
Lackey appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the first Longhorns player to do that, in the Nov. 9, 1959 edition, walking up the tunnel after defeating Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
“In honor of his numerous athletic accomplishments, Weslaco High School named the gymnasium after Lackey in the mid 1970s,” the Weslaco ISD statement read. “In September 2002, Weslaco ISD renamed the football facility after Bobby Lackey. The WHS athletic program also honors the top male athlete with the Bobby Lackey Award every year.
“Weslaco’s favorite son also contributed to the community as a member of the city council from 1964-69 and the Weslaco ISD School Board from 1968-1974.
Bobby Lackey spent part of his childhood living in a labor camp before moving regularly from rental to rental with his family.
“Neither of his parents could read or write and athletics was his ticket,” John Lackey said. “He had eight brothers and sisters and was the only one who went to college, and the only way was a football scholarship.
“He was a poor boy and he met my mom, the prettiest girl, head cheerleader and from a good family. It was a movie in the making.”
After his freshman year, he married the cheerleader and they lived in a small house. Bobby Lackey was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers but didn’t like the wild party-like lifestyle.
“He got a call that my mom was pregnant with me and said, ‘I’m coming home,’” John Lackey said. “He worked for his father-in-law. He never regretted that decision and knew it was the right decision.
“He loved what he did and was successful at it. We are going to miss him very much.”