In terms of coaching, Mike Copeland has quite literally done it all.


After May 19, it will be hard to imagine anything making his illustrious career more complete. That's when Copeland will have bestowed upon him one of the biggest awards in Texas high school coaching, one named for his hero.

The 38-year Stephenville teacher and coach has been named the 2012 recipient of the Tom Landry Award, which will be presented at the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame induction and awards ceremony at 6 p.m. May 19 at Baylor University's Ferrell Center in Waco.

"Tom Landry was my hero when I was a young coach because he stood for doing things right, he coached with true Christian conviction and he always put the team first," said Copeland, 64. "If anyone deserves to have an award named after him, it's Coach Landry. I'm just a little embarrassed because I know there are so many coaches out there as deserving as I am to receive it."

Copeland's humility may be the only thing exceeding his knowledge of X's and O's, especially when it comes to the defensive side of the football, where he was coordinator for many great Stephenville teams, including each of the Yellow Jackets' four state title clubs in the 1990s.

Current Stephenville head coach Joe Gillespie, however, isn't buying Copeland's last statement. Gillespie believes Copeland is the most deserving man around.

"When I hear of an award named for Tom Landry, I think of Mike Copeland," Gillespie said. "Who better to receive such an honor than a man who has lived his life and spent his entire career standing up for a lot of the same beliefs and always carrying himself with nothing but class. I only hope someday I can look back and say I've influenced anywhere close to the number of young lives that have been influenced by Coach Copeland."

Gillespie is a Stephenville alum, having played for Copeland when he was defensive coordinator for current Baylor head coach Art Briles. Gillespie then worked alongside Copeland as a defensive assistant until his mentor retired after the 2002 season.

That came after three seasons Copeland spent as head coach at Stephenville following Briles' departure. Copeland retired in 2003, coached part time in Morgan Mill and helped run the family business for five years, then returned to Stephenville to work under Gillespie in 2008.

"It was just the perfect situation," Copeland said of his return. "I knew what kind of head football coach Joe was going to be, and I knew the quality of staff he was putting together including a couple of young men I watched grow up. That and I had the support of my sweet wife Becky and our entire family.

That includes his sons, former Yellow Jackets Mitch and Matt Copeland, their respective wives Katy and Tara and all the grandkids.

"I was already comfortable with the type of kids and parents I would be working with," Copeland said. "We have kids in Stephenville who want so desperately to become the best they can be, and they're willing to put in the hard work and make the sacrifices necessary to do that. That's a testament to the kids, but it's also a testament to their parents.

"I needed to get back into it - I missed the Friday nights, the hours we spent up here preparing and believe it or not, I missed the practice field," he added. "A lot of young boys turn into solid young men right out there on that grass, and I missed being a part of that."

Copeland says many of those young men crossed his mind as he joined in the celebration of the program's first state championship in 1993.

"I thought of all the boys who had worked so hard and never got to win a championship," he said. "To me, that first championship was as much about each of them as it was anything."

To say Copeland's coaching success extends beyond the playing field is a little like saying he had some dominant defenses in the 1990s.

He recently became girls track and field head coach for the second time at Stephenville. In his last head coaching stint in the sport, his teams won 12 district titles in 13 years and six individuals won state championships. He won nine straight district titles and made four regional finals appearances as head girls basketball coach and has also directed boys and girls golf, tennis and cross country teams during his career.

"I took over girls basketball in 1971 and they were three years removed from a state championship, so you can imagine the type of success everyone was expecting," Copeland said. "Well my first year we were second (in district) and only one went to the playoffs. I learned real quick I better figure out how to be a better girls basketball coach."

Like everything else, Copeland figured it out and success soon followed.

"Coach Copeland's the type of person who is going to succeed no matter what," Gillespie said. "Whatever it is he's doing, he'll commit himself to doing it right, and that's the biggest key to success."

More than finding ways to succeed himself, Copeland has found a way to foster it in others.

The committee in charge of the Tom Landry Award says it is presented "for outstanding contributions to the game of football by a Texas high school coach whose life and actions have provided a positive role model for athletes and a credit to the coaching profession."

To many, no better words describe Copeland.

"I am very humbled by all this," Copeland said, a former THSCA president and regional director. "When I was elected president I thought that was the highest honor a man could ever earn in coaching. But this may be even bigger.

"There are more than 20,000 members in the Texas High School Coaches Association. Any time a group that large selects an individual for a specific award, it's a big deal. I'm forever in debt to the coaches of Region II for nominating me, because in the end, I feel like I'm just a lucky guy surrounded by a wonder family, great coaches and parents and more than anything, some of the best kids in the world."

But those individuals will tell you they are the lucky ones for having been influenced by Copeland, just as he has forever been influenced by Landry and past recipients of the award.

"A lot of the coaches who have received this award are men I have known for many years," he said. "I've been to the ceremony four or five times to pay respect to coaches I have looked up to my whole life. To be mentioned in the same breath as them is just incredible to me."

That's Mike Copeland.

That's Tom Landry.