Coach profile By Emily Wilson

On a cloudy, windy day in September, mid-practice, coach Lelland Ducksworth motivates junior Gavin Zurcher and sophomore Kyrell Jordan. 

“He’s a nice coach and he really knows what he’s talking about because he played college football,” Zurcher said. 

Junior Dalton Hike agrees with Zurcher. He said that Ducksworth has a good personality and brings a lot to the team. 

“All the players like him and he pushes us to try our best. Plus, he is always working with us and isn’t afraid to say what he thinks,” Hike said.

Ducksworth is Bellevue East’s newest running back coach. Born and raised in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, he played football and then coached at the University of Southern Mississippi before leaving for Fort Worth, Texas to work as an assistant zookeeper. His work there led him to the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo where he pursued his passion in zoology. 

“I worked as a zookeeper for about seven years, most recently working with the great apes: orangutans, gorillas, and simians,” Ducksworth said. 

Ducksworth met BEHS senior and football player Nathan (Nate) Wheeler while working out at the Iron Heaven Gym in Omaha. Wheeler soon connected him to coach Drew Wheeler, who coaches wide receivers and defensive backs for East. And that’s how Ducksworth became a Chieftain. Ducksworth’s strategy for approaching his job as coach is to “first win games. But also bring the players together as a team, versus individuals who just want to create stats.”

Despite early losses, signs of Ducksworth’s impact are positive, including two wins in 2020. Senior Will Foster played both linebacker and running back, so he worked closely with Ducksworth. He shared what Ducksworth has taught him, 

“…you have to work hard to be successful… and don’t take any days or reps off,” Foster said. 

Foster’s favorite memory so far with Ducksworth was when the two got in a heated argument at practice. Foster also said that Ducksworth has impacted him to become a good football player and a better man. Coach Chris Sidzyik agrees. 

“It’s exciting. He is new, young, and is from a D1 football program. He’s got a lot of new ideas. The players see him as a role model and he has a wealth of experience and stories. He really brings out the best in the players,” Sidzyik said. 

Ducksworth and Sidzyik communicate closely because Sidzyik had the role Ducksworth recently assumed. 

“Last year I was the running back coach, so I shared the things I had already learned with the players. I’m learning from him, and hopefully he’s learning a little bit from me, too,” Sidzyik said.

When he’s not coaching, Ducksworth has his hands full raising 1-year-old son Leander and he misses aspects of the South. He craves Shepherd’s Pie, a meat and mashed potato dish. And, he seems to have a recipe for coaching success: inspire, work hard, achieve. These are the unifying themes that drive Bellevue East’s Ducksworth. And the football team is excited to have the positive energy, new ideas, experience and work ethic coach Ducksworth brings to the table. 

“When we started out this past season, the guys were acting more as individuals. But as the practices went by, day-by-day, they became more cohesive as a group. In coaching, I am encouraged by the guys coming together,” Ducksworth said.