By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
Faithful fans of the Midlothian Heritage football program are well aware of Lee Wiginton’s coaching prowess. The Jaguars, after all, have quickly blossomed into a perennial power in Class 4A.
High school coaches — and not just of the football variety — will soon learn how to lead a team of young men or women from the man himself, as Wiginton was recently announced as the 2020 Grant Teaff Coaching Beyond the Game award winner by the Texas High School Coaches Association.
The honor will afford the Midlothian Heritage head football coach and campus coordinator to speak at the upcoming 9th annual Texas Coaches Leadership Summit presented by the THSCA Education Foundation. The signature event will be held Feb. 24 at the Esports Stadium in Arlington and aims to “unite coaches from across the state of Texas with one primary purpose: To coach beyond the game.”
“If coaches can effectively utilize the platform that athletics provides to teach not only the sport, but life skills and principles such as commitment, service, leadership, respect, responsibility and teamwork, we can continue to make positive changes in our communities and our state,” notes the THSCA announcement. “This movement can only come through a profession that is united in its purpose.”
Wiginton is the lone recipient of the Grant Teaff Coaching Beyond the Game award this year. The award was designed to annually recognize a coach who has “impacted their team, school and community.”
One example of Wiginton’s commitment to the Midlothian community occurred this past summer when the Jaguars volunteered their Saturday at Gloryland Express, a local para-church bus ministry. According to its website, Gloyland Express is a bus ministry that concentrates on helping Midlothian and Venus children “learn about good citizenship, making good choices and about our Lord.”
After breaking into 11 groups, the Jaguars spent the day building a porch and brick sidewalk, spreading pallets of grass, setting posts for a fence, converting a hot tub into a fish pond, and constructing a 9-square game. They also, of course, gave each of the ministry-owned buses a good scrubbing.
The group even awarded Gloryland Express a $2,500 grant on behalf of the Dallas Cowboys. The funds helped construct a new playground for local youth.
Gloryland Express, located at 5211 Whitehead Rd in Midlothian, hosts all-day Saturday visitation on its grounds, twice-monthly Sunday afternoon chapel with free bus routes, weekly school chapels, weekly after-school chapel, free summer camp programs, and more. The organization also provides free food through its General Store and aids other bus ministries in start-up and beyond.
Gloryland Express falls under the umbrella of First Baptist Church of Midlothian.
And that’s just one of the more recent examples of Wiginton’s impact on his team, school and community.
Other speakers for the upcoming summit include NFL Hall-of-Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, Arlington Martin head girls’ basketball coach Brooke Brittain, Richardson Berkner head football coach Jim Ledford (former Red Oak assistant), Atavus CEO Karen Bryant, Vandergrift head football coach Drew Sanders and best-selling authors Jon Gordon and Damon West.
According to his THSCA profile, Wiginton graduated from Lampasas High School in 1989, where he played for his father, Ken Wiginton. He would later go on to coach with his father in Lampasas and Bastrop. Wiginton called those experiences one of the “greatest joys” in his athletic life.
Of course, that experience has already begun to come full circle for Wiginton, as he currently coaches his son and Midlothian Heritage junior wide receiver, Haydon Wiginton.
As for Wiginton and his coaching career, the road to Midlothian Heritage began even before he graduated from Angelo State University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Wiginton lined up as a member of the Rams football team for his first two collegiate years before transitioning into a coaching role for his final two years at ASU.
Wiginton eventually earned a master’s degree in educational administration from then-Southwest Texas (Texas State) in 1998, which transpired five years after he began his high school coaching career at Edison Junior High in San Angelo. He then moved into a coaching role in Lampasas in 1994 and then spent five seasons at Bastrop High in 1995-99 under Jay McCarty.
Throughout those early years, Wiginton coached junior high basketball and track, as well as high school girls’ basketball, powerlifting, baseball and football.
Wiginton’s first big break came in 2000 when he accepted a head football coach and athletic director gig at 1A Bosqueville. He promptly led the now-2A Bulldogs to their first-ever football playoff appearance in program history. They have since appeared in the postseason over a dozen times.
Wiginton moved on from Bosqueville after four successful seasons and took on the same responsibilities at 2A Comfort, where he served for four seasons before sliding over to 3A Mexia for two years.
That brings us to 2010, which is when Wiginton took a leap and joined then-6A Midlothian High School to serve the district as the campus coordinator and head football coach. It was a position with the Panthers that he held for five seasons and led his in-district transition as the first head football coach and athletic director of newly-opened Midlothian Heritage.
During his tenure leading the Jaguars, the football team has reached the third round of the 4A football playoffs in each of its first four seasons — which included advancing to the fourth round for the first time Midlothian ISD history in 2019.
Wiginton has compiled a 132-77 record during his 19-year head coaching career, while also notching at least one playoff appearance at every stop. He has been named a district coach of the year nine different times, as well as the 2003 TexasHSFootball.com Coach of the Year, 2003 Fox Sports Southwest 1A Coach of the Year and 2006 Hill Country Coach of the Year. He was also thrice selected as Dallas Cowboys Coach of the Week — 2010, 2016 and 2018.
Off the field, Wiginton has served as a THSCA director, director of the North Texas Football Coaches’ Association since 2014 and on the THSCA All-Star Selection Committee in 2002.
Tickets for the 9th annual Texas Coaches Leadership Summit are $89 in advance and $99 at the door. For more information about the summit, which is from 9 a.m. — 2 p.m. Feb. 24, visit thsca.com/summit.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith