Under a blistering sun on a dusty high school football field in Ohio, a coach once paced the sidelines delivering a relentless message to the young men on his team, “Never give up,” he’d say. “Never, ever, give up.”
When he spoke, Jack Orrison, the coach, perhaps never could have known how much his message would be taken to heart. Fitting for a football team that went on to win an undefeated conference championship, Orrison may have never known how inspirational those words were.
They became the life message of his star quarterback.
Flash forward 57 years and 770 miles from where Orrison delivered his message and you’ll find his signal caller, Dale Lett, living by those words here in Neosho. Here, you can find Lett’s hard work stamped all over the area from his 40-plus years of commitment to the community. But back in New Lexington, at the New Lexington Athletic Hall of Fame, you’ll see the fruits of his athletic labor.
On Sept. 28, Lett, 76, was rewarded for his athletic achievements throughout the 1950’s in becoming one of the newest members of the NLHS Athletic Hall of Fame.
“It was a tremendous honor for me to be recognized along with so many other great athletes who have been developed from my high school,” Lett said.
A football, basketball and track standout, Lett led his New Lexington football team to an undefeated MVL Conference championship during his senior year in 1955 while also leading the league in passing yards. He was a unanimous selection as All-MVL Conference quarterback.
Football wasn’t Lett’s only sport. A four-year starter for famed basketball coach Ralph Readout, who later coached collegiately at UNLV, Lett also quarterbacked the hoops team to a 27-4 record and an MVL championship while earning Honorable Mention All-MVL playing point guard for the team.
He competed in track at NLHS for one season.
Decorated throughout the Neosho community for his work with the local Masonic Lodge and road district, and throughout Southwest Missouri as an officer for Abou Ben Adhem Shrine Temple of Springfield and the Valley of Joplin Scottish Rite, Lett continues his vow to Orrison that he’ll never give up.
“My old football coach used to always tell us, ‘Never give up, never give up’ and here I am 57 years later getting inducted into our Hall of Fame,” Lett said with a smile. “I never gave up.
“With the support of all my classmates and great coaches and wonderful teachers and the current athletic program at my old alma mater, I’m just so pleased to be included with the other inductees into the Hall of Fame.”
Page 2 of 2 - With his plaque and likeness hanging along the wall at NLHS, Lett will be, much like Orrison’s words, forever remembered in New Lexington.
A few words chiseled on a plaque: A reminder to never give up.