LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Hospital officials confirm Lufkin Head Coach and Athletic Director John Outlaw was pronounced dead Friday morning shortly before 6AM.
"We are saddened to report the passing away of John Outlaw," said Yana Ogletree, Marketing Director for Memorial Medical Center, during an Friday afternoon news conference announcing the legendary coach's death.
"Our community has lost a great champion for children, the greatest I have ever known. I've lost a best friend," said Roy Knight, Lufkin ISD Superintendent.
During a news conference this afternoon, it was learned Coach Outlaw, 57, was discovered by his wife collapsed in the kitchen. He had taken his daily 4:30 a.m. jog. When emergency personnel arrived at the couple home, they worked to revive him before transporting him to Memorial Hospital in Lufkin.
302 wins, 89 losses and 3 ties, it is an impressive record for a high school coach, or any coach for that matter. But those who knew him best say Coach Outlaw would not want to be remembered for his record on the field.
"What he always wanted to be remembered as is a person who cared about kids," said Knight.
"I think the hardest part about today is realizing that we've lost a man that was a giant. Coach Outlaw touched countless numbers of lives," said Trent Ashby, President LISD School Board.
School administrators revealed the 57-year old Arkansas native had gone for his ritual 4:30AM run before he collapsed in his kitchen. The long time coach arrived by ambulance at the emergency unresponsive. Doctors tried to revive him, but could not. A Justice of the Peace pronounced him dead at 5:53 a.m. and ordered an autopsy to help determine cause of death. Early indications point to a possible heart attack.
"Our community has lost a great champion for children, the greatest I have ever known," Lufkin ISD Superintendent Roy Knight said. "I've lost a best friend. All that being said, we're asked often what does that mean for a community. What happens next? How would John want to be remembered. In that regard, I'd tell you the last thing John Outlaw wants to be remembered as is a football coach. What he always wanted to be remembered as is a person who cared about kids."
An eternal optimist, Coach Outlaw loved his job, his family, and his community. Word of the legendary coach's death spread quickly and has left the community in mourning.
"No amount of words can express the grief that we all feel," said Knight.
For 17 seasons, Outlaw led the Pack to several playoff games and a state championship. Unlike so many of his wins, Friday's news shocked Panther Nation. "To say that there's a hole in my heart and the collective heart of the Panther Nation would be an understatement," said Knight.
"The untimely death of Coach Outlaw today is a significant loss for our community and a tremendous loss for our young people, especially all the athletes that he has mentored. We must come together and grieve his loss by celebrating his amazing legacy, all his coaching accomplishments but even more so the immeasurable positive influence he has had on the youth in our community over the years---all the countless young men and women whose lives have been touched by Coach John Outlaw. He will be missed but not forgotten," said Dr. Debra Burton, Family Counselor.
Those who officiated Outlaws' games say he was well respected.
"Football is a sport that mimics life greatly and I think John knew that and I think he would like for his former players to carry those lessons forward and be as successful in life as they were on the field," said Cooper Castleberry, Lufkin ISD School Board member.
Outlaw has an ever growing list of athletes that have signed to college scholarships and that was something he took pride in. "We've done a good job of marketing our kids and helping our kids both academically and athletically. It opens up a lot of doors that otherwise wouldn't open."
One of his co-workers recalled how he was always pulling for the underdog. "Those kids who had unstable lives at home. Those kids who needed someone to believe in them. Those kids who hung on to football as a lifeline. Those were the kids Coach Outlaw was most interested in. He loved all of his kids, but those kids who needed him most were the ones he gravitated towards."
The Panther's last state title was in 2001, no one was more anxious to get back to that level than Outlaw, though his philosophy was to take one season at a time, a game at a time.
In a preseason interview Outlaw talked about the 2011 season. Coach Outlaw said he was not worried about the pressure, but how his team would respond. "Pressure is when you don't have enough money to pay your bills at the end of the month. I try to tell everybody I don't know what kind of team we are going to have until I find out how they act when we are behind."
The Pack went on to complete a 9-2-0 season with Coach Outlaw picking up his 300th career win against rival The Woodlands in October.
"We were talking about what the future looked like and what it may not look like and what our re-alignment might be and John used one of his favorite sayings, nothing good lasts forever, and that certainly is re-enforced today," said Knight.
Funeral arrangements are still pending, but school administrators expect services to be held sometime next week. The district is prepared to hold the memorial service in the Lufkin Middle School Auditorium, if necessary. The facility is the school's largest, seating approximately 1,200.
In lieu of flowers, the Outlaw family has requested donations be sent to the Lufkin High School Alumni Association for the Coach John Outlaw Scholarship Fund.