The Newton (Texas) High School Eagles captured their second straight Class 3A state title with a 21-16 victory against Canadian Thursday. While the performance was a lift in itself, the speech that came after from Newton head coach W.T. Johnson was an entirely new level.
As noted by 247Sports, Johnson’s postgame speech put football in perspective. The coach contracted graft-versus-host disease following a double lung transplant in 2015, a condition that deteriorated in the lead up to the 2018 season. In August, Johnson was told he had eight months at most to live. The coach was forced to tell his players he might not live through the season, and that he was taking a back seat on game days.
Then, something amazing happened. Newton kept on rolling, winning week-after-week, and Johnson survived. Eventually, after Newton captured a second-straight state title, Johnson was given the platform to stress how the preceding four-plus months had put football and life in perspective. He didn’t disappoint:
If you can’t listen to the speech in its entirety above, here’s what Johnson said on live TV:
“This has been a long journey. I can’t even describe it. I’d have to have an hour to tell you. We got together in August right before we started practicing and I told them I probably wouldn’t make it through the season. I was only given eight months to live. And I wanted them to be aware of what was going on. And then we got going and there was about two or three weeks during the season I didn’t think I was going to make it. And we talked about that.
“And I always told them this was the last lesson I’m gonna teach them. I’ve been around these guys and their dads and their mothers since 1991. And I told them this would be the last lesson I would ever teach them, is how to live before you die, and where you put your strength and where you put your belief. The lord has done so much for me. It’s unbelievable what Jesus has let me do and see through these kids. And I tell everybody – they don’t understand this – I’ve been given a great gift and people just don’t understand that. The gift is I’ve been able to see how my life could affect people before I die. And then these guys, I mean, they’ve touched my life. It’s been a mutual thing. But I’ve been able to teach them a lesson that you don’t get to see most times.
“I told them last night – we talked about it, they were talking about wanting to win for me – this is their time. I’ve had my time. This is these kids’ time. This is all for them. I told them do it for your teammates, do it for you. Because 50 years from now, this will be something they can always, they’ll always remember this. This’ll be a special time. I mean, they’ll remember me – if I’ve done right, a part of me is going to live in them and that’s what I’ve always thought – if I’ve done things right.”
If that doesn’t put everything that goes on in the course of a high school season in perspective, we don’t know what will.