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Superman and Superfan
Ledbetter in his playing days with his grandfather Morris Purcell

Celebration of Life held for Ledbetter

By Michael Butler

CJ Ledbetter was a standout athlete at Tallassee High School in the early 2000s. The 2005 THS graduate died on Wednesday. He was 35.

Ledbetter had been battling a rare autoimmune disease for about a decade. His determination to "fight the good fight and never complain" earned him the nickname Superman.

Several family and friends wore shirts with the Superman logo at a Celebration of Life service on Sunday. Many made a victory lap to the "Eye of the Tiger" at J. E. "Hot" O'Brien Stadium, where Ledbetter threw touchodown passes as a high school quarterback. Phil Lindsey was his coach.

"CJ was a tenth grader when I came to Tallasseee, "Lindsey said. "In the first game we played we had a trick play on the first play and CJ was inolved in throwing a pass for a touchdown. Unfortunately, that was our last touchdown for a while. The first year was unbearable, but he made it better. Never once did he complain."

Ledbetter became the starter at quarterback for Lindsey in his junior season. In his senior year, he led the Tigers to the playoffs.

Fomrer THS head football coach Phil Lindsey speaking on Sunday

"He was the leader," said Lindsey. "CJ always tried to do the right thing - anytime. He had that kind of character. No matter what, he gave his best. He was a role model to his teammates and everyone else. He was a special person. It took a special disease to take him, because he was special to everybody."

John Goodman was an assistant on Lindsey's staff and head baseball coach during Ledbetter's high school days.

Sweet Water head coach Craig McDaniel's team wore Superman stickers during last weekend's playoff series to honor the coach's former high school teammate

"Coach Lindsey came to me and said, 'CJ's not coming to his early classes,'" Goodman remembered. "CJ liked to sleep. I said, 'Let me handle it.'

"We came up with a plan for CJ to wake up every morning at 6:00 and call my house. He had to be at school by 7:30. He had to call me at Southside with coach Lindsey to verify that he was there. His grades came up. His attendance was great. When the season was over he came to me and said, 'I get to sleep late.' I said, 'No this doesn't stop 'til you graduate.'

"I'm going to miss him. There's not many 35-year-olds who have touched the amount of people that CJ touched. Everybody knows the fight that CJ had and the will he had to live even though he was hurting so bad. He still wanted to hang on because there was somebody out there that needed something from him. It's amazing what he accomplished in such a short period of time."

Starting next football season, WTLS Radio will honor Ledbetter's name with the recognition of the "CJ Ledbetter Superman Award" during each Tallassee Tigers sports broadcast.

*2004 Pep Rally Clip *CJ's Football Toss