Hardman: ‘Too many people to thank’

On Friday evening, legendary Dollarway football coach Lee Hardman will be inducted into the Arkansas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

Hardman said there are “too many people to thank,” but did single out one person to whom he gives a lot of credit.

“The first person would be my wife,” he said of whom to thank. “I was coaching for 31 years and she only missed one ballgame, that’s junior high, high school, college, everything.

“All that coaching forced me to miss a lot of things, but she was always encouraging me.”

Hardman said he’d “always regret it,” if he forgot to mention somebody by name. He did, however, mention some groups of people that helped him achieve this honor.

“It would be impossible for me to name everybody,” he said, but I do want to thank all of them.

“All of the mothers of players, the players, principals, superintendents, coaching staff and just the community of Pine Bluff.”

On Friday, Hardman doesn’t think he will get the chance to make an in-person speech thanking those who helped him throughout his career. Instead, he believes a video speech of him expressing his gratitude will be played for the crowd.

“I actually think everything is on video,” he said. “They had us come to the AAA (Arkansas Activities Association) office on either May 4th or April 4th. …

“I think when we get announced our video will just be played on the screen.”

Hardman said he isn’t sure who the other members of the induction class are, but he knows he is joining a prestigious group.

“It’s big, really big,” he said of being inducted. “It’s an elite group of coaches who have been inducted. A lot of credit goes to the players and assistant coaches.

“It’s a big honor.”

The players and coaches that Hardman oversaw at Dollarway were a big reason he was able to win 116 games and four state titles in his final five seasons.

“I was very blessed,” he said of his time coaching the Cardinals. “I think God put me in that situation to help those kids. Some people take it for granted, but it took a lot of work for our program to win year in and year out. I mean we had four different quarterbacks on our four state championship teams. …

“I truly believe God put me there, not just with football, but to help them grow into young men. During our time there, we had a lot of kids graduate and go to college and some go on to have successful pro careers.

“My time there is something I never take for granted.”

Now, more than 20 years after leaving the Cardinals to resurrect the Arkansas-Pine Bluff football program, Hardman is back at Dollarway as the school’s athletic director.

“I was very blessed to get hired back at Dollarway,” he said. “I would like to thank principal (Bobby) Acklin for the opportunity.

“It feels like going back home. It’s a good feeling.”