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— Editor’s Note: After the successful football year under coach Bill Harrelson, we reprint the following story about the Lions’ defensive coordinator Duke Mobley which appeared in a recent issue of the Benton County Daily Record.

Gravette football fans know Duke Mobley. Those who plan to head to Lions Stadium for the first time tonight for the opening round of the state playoffs will know the longtime defensive coordinator before they leave.

Mobley, an 18-year coaching veteran for the Gravette football program, is his own man. What he says is unique. What he does is different. He’s a character. He’s part of the show under the lights on Friday nights.

“Coach Mobley is one of those unique guys that doesn’t hide his energyand excitement,” Gravette Athletic Director Norman Mitchell said. “It’s all over everything he does. But the community also knows it’s not a show with Coach Mobley. All the crazy things you see him doing down there, that’s the real thing. He gets excited about football and about these kids. I truly believe the kids feed off that emotion.”

Ask principals, coaches and players around Gravette and they all have hilarious stories involving something Mobley has said or done. But Mobley himself recounted what may be the classic moment of them all while describing the atmosphere at the old McAbee Field (since replaced by the new Lions Stadium) on Friday nights.

“The fans were right up on you in that place,” Mobley said. “One time there was someone in the standsnot particularly happy with something the coaches were doing. The next thing I know, I get peppered in the head with a hot-dog wiener. I reached down, looked into the stands where it came from, and Iate that wiener.”

Gravette Middle School Principal Mitchell Wilber got a kick out of that story. With Mobley new stories materialize almost daily.

“When you see him down there on the field for the first time, you probably think he’s nuts, “Wilber said. “But, man, he makes the game fun. He’s running around, jumping in the air and getting right in the middle of things. But every one of those k ids buys into that energy and enthusiasm for the game.”

“There was a game - earlier this year, I think - where things weren’t going so well,” Mitchell said. “At half-time he got in there and, as only Coach Mobley could, said, ‘Gosh dang, boys, this ain’t rocket scientry!’ He was completely serious, but when the players noticed the other coaches were having trouble keeping back the smiles, the kids started laughing too. You don’t have to make stuff up with Duke Mobley. You don’t have to embellish a thing to have a great story. He’s the genuine article and he’s good at what he does.”

Last week against Prairie Grove, Mobley managed to chalk up a penalty. Confined by rules to an area known as the sideline coaching box, Mobley erupted with enthusiasm as one of his defensive players leveled a ball carrier.

The football squirted out and another Lions player scooped it up and started running toward the end zone. Mobley left the imaginary coaches box and ran the length of the sidelines stride for stride with the player.

“Yeah, they flagged me for that, but I’m going to celebrate with my players,” Mobley said. “I’ve alwaysbeen told a group of players will play to the energy level of the coach. Energy and intensity - that’s something I’ve got. What you see is who I am. When it’s time for kickoff on Friday nights, I’m fired up.

“My son used to be down on the sidelines with me but he went back up inthe stands with my wife because he said I embarrassed him. My wife always says, ‘Duke, you’re 57. Calm down.’ I always ask her, ‘Why?’”

About five years ago Mobley decided to label his defense the Lions Destruction Crew, known today by Gravette fans as LDC. It was intended to establish an identity and Mobley drew up a list of commandments to be followed if players wished to be part of it. He figured it would serve the defense well for a year, maybe two.

But it still exists today. In fact, the letters LDC have been painted on the 50-yard line at Lions Stadium on occasion. They’ve been sewn into the coaching jackets and some fans have been known to wear hard hats to home games in recognition of LDC.

It’s not just a saying anymore.

“Coach Mobley is one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever had,” said Travis Eden, a defensive starter for the Lions. “We don’t have the biggest players on defense, but he makes us play bigger. He’s constantly pushing us to do better. You just want to get aggressive and go to the ball with that same kind of energy. He’s one of those coaches you don’t find too often.”

But underneath the inyour-face, whooping and hollering, there’s a gentle side to Mobley as well. Andthe players and coaches who spend enough time with him can see it, even when he’s caught in one of his energetic outpourings of emotion.

“Duke will get on those kids and get hard on them - he expects a lot,” Mitchell said. “But before he walks away, he’ll have his arm around them. He’s really just a big Teddy Bear. It’s really neat to see the relationship between he and the kids. This is his life. He loves it. He bleeds black and orange as much as or more than anyone.”

Below, Mobley is shown talking strategy with his defensive team in this Terry Roberts action photo.

Sports, Pages 6 on 12/09/2009

Print Headline: Coach Mobley Inspires His Lions Destructive Crew At Gravette High

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