Chad Leaphart pays it forward as Gilbert’s new all-time wins leader

Posted 9/14/23

After Gilbert defeated South Aiken in the second game of the season, head coach Chad Leaphart became the school’s all-time wins leader.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Subscribe to continue reading. Already a subscriber? Sign in

Get 50% of all subscriptions for a limited time. Subscribe today.

You can cancel anytime.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Chad Leaphart pays it forward as Gilbert’s new all-time wins leader


After Gilbert defeated South Aiken in the second game of the season, head coach Chad Leaphart became the school’s all-time wins leader.

As someone who grew up in Gilbert and played for the program under former all-time wins leader Marty Woolbright, Leaphart seems like the perfect coach to take over that title. He’s Gilbert as it gets.

His office at the school even feels like a mini Gilbert football museum, with pictures of past teams and an old Gilbert football helmet from the ’70s sitting on his desk.

“It’s really special for a lot of reasons for me,” Leaphart said when asked about how special the all-time wins record is to him. “Number one, I played here and to come back and coach here is kind of a dream job anyway. And then to have as much success as we’ve had over the years has been a blessing to be around all these kids and having a great staff and all that.”

But for Leaphart, one of the more sentimental takeaways from his newly earned title is that he surpassed his old coach, Woolbright, who he said inspired him to pursue the coaching profession.
“I want to be like him. I want to do what coach did,” Leaphart said. “I’ve kind of always known that. It wasn’t something I had to figure out later in life. I knew in high school that I wanted to coach football just like coach Woolbright.”

After breaking his old coach’s record, he heard from the man who inspired him to become a coach in the first place.

“He’s a great guy and he called me Saturday and congratulated me,” Leaphart said. “He means a lot to a lot of people in this community.”

Like Woolbright, Leaphart has been successful on the field. Under his direction, Gilbert has won four region titles since 2017. But it wasn’t easy. Before Leaphart came back to his alma mater, Gilbert hit a lull that ultimately resulted in a 2-8 season in 2015. When Leaphart took the job, the Indians made a complete turnaround en route to a 10-2 season in 2016.

“When we came in here, there were some good players and the first thing I think about was that we worked them pretty hard,” Leaphart recalled of that first off-season. “But the seniors that were here were very hungry to have success and they wanted it. They bought in quick and sometimes when new coaches come in, a lot of times the old players don’t buy in. ‘Oh we didn’t used to do it this way, why do we have to do it this way now?’ A lot of times, kids have that attitude and so it takes coaches awhile to get things turned around. But we were blessed, we were lucky that we had a great group of seniors that were just hungry to win and were open to what we were doing.”

That 2016 team not only represented what hard work in the weight room, buying into a program’s winning culture and paying attention to every detail can do for a team on the field, but it represented the impact that Leaphart has on the lives of his players.

Just like when Leaphart was inspired to become a head coach after his playing days under coach Woolbright, he’s had the exact same impact on some of his old players and has inspired them to become coaches as well.

What’s unique about Leaphart’s influence is that his coaching tree doesn’t just have former players coaching in the sport, but they have come back to Gilbert to coach underneath him, creating a family-like atmosphere and a staff with an emotional connection to the school and each other.

One of those coaches, Peyton Loper, is on the coaching staff and is now calling plays for the JV team. Loper was a player on Leaphart’s first team at Gilbert, the team that made the improbable turnaround from 2-8 to 10-2.

When Leaphart took over the program, Loper said he was contemplating quitting football but Leaphart’s vision and the belief that was installed into Loper was enough to get him on board and help turn the season around. That experience inspired him to become a coach, just like how Woolbright inspired Leaphart.

“I was kind of done playing and the impact he had on me to make me want to come back and actually play, made me want to have that impact on somebody else,” Loper said. “I wanted to have that positive impact he had on me and everybody else.”

Now that Leaphart has become what he grew up wanting to be and is opening the door for other former players to coach with him, he hasn’t thought much about the full circle moment unfolding in front of him. But when he did, he acknowledged how special a situation it is.

“I don’t know if I have thought about it just like you just put it, but it’s so true,” Leaphart said. “It’s pretty awesome. You have those guys that play for you and now they’re working with you. It’s just awesome watching them grow and develop and grow into young men and leaders like they are now. No doubt, that’s pretty cool.”

Gilbert Football, Chad Leaphart, Peyton Loper, Marty Woolbright


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here