With the lights off at 5:21 p.m. on a Monday afternoon and without a single student in sight, the halls of South Lafourche High School still are not silent. They tell stories. Literally. The walls tell stories – of students, of school history and of everything that’s been on the minds of pupils who’ve been part of the 51-year history of the school.
Student-painted murals fill almost every square inch of the interior space of the Galliano campus – a beautiful mosaic that details where the school comes from and where it’s been through the eyes of its young artists over the years.
Outside of the school’s main gym and in the football facility, rich athletic history is also present. Team pictures of every, single football and basketball team line the halls, as well as photos of all the Tarpon All-District players over the years.
There have been plenty good ones – household names like Bobby Hebert, Ed “Baba” Orgeron or Ronnie “Crocket” Estay, among others who have gone on to play or coach at the highest level. The Tarpons have won the State Championship twice. For a 20-year stretch in the late-1960s through the early 1980s, they were the school everyone locally was chasing.
For what it’s worth, they’re still awfully good today and are one of the top local teams in the 2017 season.
But what if I told you that for all of the star power and on-field excellence, there’s one man perhaps more well-known than them all? What if I told you that this man never played a snap, never scored a touchdown and never made a basket, nor hit a home run? Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself.
Ask someone from down the bayou about Billy Rebstock and everyone will know exactly who you’re talking about – without even needing a moment to think. Most will even have a story to tell – if not an old scrapbook photo to share.
Known simply as “Billy,” to the locals, this man is one of the true unsung heroes of South Lafourche High School athletics and one of the greatest local ambassadors for the love our area has for high school sports.
All without ever competing in any athletic competition.
“Billy Rebstock is the man!” Bobby Hebert said at Coach O day last fall when going through the history of Tarpon athletics. “Who deserves recognition more than that guy? No one. Everyone knows him. Everyone loves him. He’s seen everything. He’s impacted everybody. He’s a legend. Billy is a legend.”
Billy’s story is awesome. It’s a tale that can serve to inspire others. He is a special needs person, but he’s never let his ailments slow him down or keep him inactive.
Billy always loved sports, so he became a manager for the Tarpons’ football team decades ago when the school was still in its infancy.
His time as a student complete, Billy was comfortable in his position and players and coaches liked having him around, so legendary coach Ralph Pere helped get him in a government-run program, which allowed him to stay at school working with the teams.
Time passed and Billy became a mainstay. Now an adult, he later became a full-time employee of South Lafourche High School, working by day as a custodian, helping the school’s support staff keep things running smoothly throughout the year.
Billy kept that job for decades. He retired from the Lafourche Parish School System in 2010-11. A look back at yearbooks over the history of South Lafourche High School show him smiling with students of literally every generation.
He impacted thousands and has a rare ability to bring out the best in people – even when dealing with stressful situations in an academic setting.
“I like to help,” Billy said. He’s a man of few words about most things. But not about sports.
Athletics are Billy’s truest passion. Even after becoming an employee of the school, Billy never stopped working as a manager/coach for Tarpon sports, attending literally thousands of games over the years.
Billy still attends today – as many as he can. He’s a little older now, so his work is limited. But he doesn’t mind keeping footballs dry and hustling them to officials – like he’s done for almost his whole life.
“What a legendary figure in the history of South Lafourche High School football,” former Tarpon coach Dennis Skains said. “He was one of the first people they introduced me to when I got hired and he’s been a part of what goes on here longer than almost anyone. He’s the embodiment of a Tarpon.”
When Billy walks into the stadium, he’s approached by longtime friends or former students and they often ask him about how he’s doing or feeling. But the questions always quickly migrate back to sports – his wheelhouse.
Billy will answer questions and make conversation for as long as you’re willing to talk. Always an optimist, he never has a doubt about the successes of South Lafourche, LSU or the Saints.
“I listened to you on the radio last Saturday morning,” Billy said to me the last time we ran into one another. “You did good.”
“Thanks, Bill,” I replied back. “Are the Tarpons going to win tonight?”
“Yes,” he said quickly with a smile. “I think so.”
They did. On this night, South Lafourche beat Thibodaux – a win which jumpstarted their season. Not many picked the Tarpons to win that game.
On the way out, I ran into him again and we had another quick chat.
“Hey Bill, you called it,” I said. “The Tarpons won.”
“Yap,” he said back. “LSU will tomorrow, too. And Nicholls.”
Both did, too. He’d have had it no other way.