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Clemson Baseball

My Life in Sports: Jack Leggett

May 16, 2020

When it comes to Jack Leggett's earliest memories of sports, it's all in the family. Leggett's father coached multiple sports on different levels.  

"My father was a coach," Leggett said. "He ended up coaching 40 years and in the high school and college realms. He coached a little bit of baseball, a lot of football and wrestling at one point, and he coached swimming for 21 years at the University of Vermont and track and field in Michigan. He wore a lot of hats. He had the keys to the gym, the batting cage, the basketball courts, the swimming pool, the trampoline, and the indoor track."

Leggett's siblings are also a distinct part of his memories of athletics, particularly in high school. 

"I had two brothers and sisters," Leggett said. "We're all fairly close in age. We were playing basketball every night, playing football, two on one football and two on one basketball in the snow up in New England. We had teams picked when we get off the bus, and we were often playing 11 on 11 or 12 on 12 football up at the University of Vermont facilities with goalposts."

The more Leggett got a chance the get outside in the cold New England air and play, the more he wanted to pursue athletics as a full-time passion. 

"We always were playing," Leggett said. "I took a particular liking the football, basketball and baseball. I played those things all the time, all the way through high school. We won a couple of  state championships in baseball, a couple of state championships in football, and my last couple years there, basketball."

Despite Leggett's love for all three sports, he knew he would have to make some tough decisions on which sports he would pursue in college. 

"I was probably as good a basketball player as I was at football and baseball," Leggett said. "When I went to college, I knew I wanted to play two of them. I narrowed it down to football and baseball. It kind of worked out best for me because it gave me a little break in between. When football was done, I had a couple of months there where I could kind of repair and get ready to go for baseball. That would be starting in January when we came back to school. I played both sports all four years, captained both teams, and we had some good success. We went to the College World Series in 1976, same year that Clemson went in 1976. We never played them when I was at the University of Maine, but they were in the World Series in different brackets. Who would know that 20 or 30 years later, I'd be coaching at Clemson? You never know; it's a small world."

As a football player at the small University of Maine, Leggett was an important part of the defense and a record-holder as a kicker, and he had visions of being a football coach before switching to baseball. 

"I actually thought I was gonna be a football coach," Leggett said. "I was a defensive back in football. I played every down and captained the defense in the 52 Monster defense. I was the monster man, so I was gonna attack you. I also did the field goal kicking. I held the record of 52 yards up at the University of Maine, and some guy tied it,  one of the kickers tied this year, but I was not a kicker. I was a position player."

While Leggett had aspirations as a professional football player, it was an associate athletic director at the University of Vermont that set him on the path of coaching baseball.

“We turned it turned into varsity sport in July, and they named me the head coach,” Leggett said. “At 23 years old, I was a Division I head baseball coach, the youngest in the country. I'm not sure anybody will ever be 23 as a head coach in Division I baseball nowadays, but so I got started early.”
- Jack Leggett on his early start as a college baseball coach.

"I went back to Burlington, Vermont, after graduating from the University of Maine, and my leg was in great shape. I was gonna go to some try some [NFL] camps," Leggett said. "In June, when they opened, I was kicking in the fieldhouse at the University of Vermont. I was feeling really good about myself, and I felt like I could go and give that an opportunity. The assistant ad at the University of Vermont walked through the fieldhouse when I was kicking one day, and he goes, 'you want to coach the club baseball team for 600 bucks?' I knew I wanted to get into coaching, but all my orientation was football, football, football. It took me a day or so, and I came back and said, 'I'm going to do it.'" 

At the time, Vermont's baseball was not a varsity program, but Leggett was a big part in making the team a Division I program. 

"We turned it turned into varsity sport in July, and they named me the head coach," Leggett said. "At 23 years old, I was a Division I head baseball coach, the youngest in the country. I'm not sure anybody will ever be 23 as a head coach in Division I baseball nowadays, but so I got started early."

Leggett's success at Vermont caught the eye of Western Carolina and their athletic director, Bob Waters. 

"I went down to the interview," Leggett said. "I came back to Vermont and the AD, Bob Waters, called me up, and he goes, 'Jack, we want to hire as our coach. We'll give you $20,000.' I said, 'I'll come for 22.' He says, 'You got it.' I go, 'Dang, I should have asked for 25.' As a person negotiating, boy I was bad, so I went south."

Leggett found tremendous success at Western Carolina, and that success led him to Clemson. The coach that almost chose football made Clemson into the baseball program that it is today and made himself into a hall-of-fame leader.  

Enjoy Part I of our story on Jack Leggett's career here.

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My Life in Sports: Jack Leggett

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