Dave Lebsack earned the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald’s Athlete of the Year awards in 1962 after earning nine letters at Lincoln Northeast in football, basketball and baseball. An all-state quarterback, he led the Rockets to a 9-0 record and the state ratings championship in 1961. He started from the first game his sophomore year and had a reputation for being a ball-handling wizard. He also earned all-state honors in basketball where the Rockets won the Class A state title in 1962. Lincoln Northeast was 19-2 that year, losing two games Lebsack missed with a strained knee. He averaged 22.4 points per game in that state tournament. In baseball, Lebsack was known as an outstanding catcher.
There were no clever nicknames for Dave Lebsack.
Not “Smoothy” or “Slick” or even “Lethal Lebsack.”
And there were certainly plenty of opportunities. Lebsack quarterbacked Lincoln Northeast to the 1961 Class A state football ratings championship (there were no playoffs until 1975), then helped the Rockets to the 1962 Class A state basketball title. He was all-state in both sports and earned Journal Star athlete of the year honors in 1962.
Lebsack, one of Lincoln’s most decorated athletes, died Tuesday at the age of 67. Memorial services will be Tuesday at 11 a.m. at St. David’s Episcopal Church.
“From the late ‘50s to the mid-‘60s, every kid in northeast Lincoln wanted to be Dave Lebsack,” said Jerry Motz, a longtime friend and teammate at Northeast. “I was one of his close friends and I wanted to be Dave Lebsack.”
Lebsack was a charter member of the Lincoln Northeast Athletic Hall of Fame, inducted in 1991, and he was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.
Lebsack guided Northeast to a 9-0 record in football his senior year and was a three-year starter at quarterback. He missed the first four games of the basketball season (the Rockets went 2-2 without him) after an injury during football required surgery. The Rockets won 17 straight games after he came back to earn the title, with Lebsack averaging 22.4 points a game in the state tournament. He was also a standout catcher and earned all-city honors in baseball.
“I can see a gifted athlete who made sports look ever so easy, especially handling the football in a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t fashion,” said Conde Sargent, who covered Lebsack’s career for the Journal Star and named him athlete of the year.
“His value to Northeast athletics was never more noticeable than his return from a football injury to the basketball court. With Dave, the Rockets stepped up a level and won the state championship. He lifted that team.”
Lebsack accepted a scholarship to play both football and basketball at Nebraska, but transferred to Nebraska Wesleyan during his sophomore year and graduated from there in 1969.
“He was a class act. He never left northeast Lincoln,” Motz said. “He’s an icon out here. He’s one of the people who laid the groundwork for all the rich tradition we had.
“He treated his opponents with respect. There was no trash talk. And in return, everyone respected him, too.”
Lebsack is survived by his wife of 47 years, Sharon, daughter Lindy and her husband Doug Bonnett, son Scott and his wife Christie, granddaughter Haley, and sister Donna Spence, all of Lincoln, and sister Judy and her husband Harlan Hoy of Waverly.
“He was very humble and shy. The only thing he cared about when he stepped on the field of endeavor was to win,” Motz said. “I’ve seen a lot of high school quarterbacks in this town, and there’s no one who was better.
“He wasn’t the fastest and he couldn’t jump the highest. All he did was win.”