NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A longtime Nacogdoches youth football coach who mentored many young athletes has died.
Slaton Sharp Smith was 45.
According to Boys & Girls Club Coach Kevin Clayton, Smith was president of the Pineywoods Football League for the past 11 years and at times coached multiple teams in the league.
The Boys & Girls Club is in the process of renovating a football field, which will be named after him.
Smith is survived by his wife, Robin and sons, Gunnar, Jake and Gus.
Services are pending with Cason Monk-Metcalf Funeral Directors.
"Nine and a half years ago Slaton was diagnosed with cancer," said his wife, Robin Smith said. "He had a Gastrointestinal Stromal tumor. His initial surgery was performed here in Nacogdoches by Dr. Jimmy Redfield and then he had treatment at The MD Anderson Cancer center in Houston."
"You know it is all how you see the world, and he saw the world as an optimist," older brother Shannon Smith said. He always saw the good in people."
Shannon was always looking out for his brother but admitted they did bump heads.
"We were 17 months apart," Shannon said. "I beat up on him, but then he got bigger than me and he did the beating up. We fought everyday. To our friends it was entertaining. They would get us worked up just to enjoy a good fight."
Slaton Smith played ball at Nacogdoches High school from 1984-1987 as a wide receiver for the dragons.
"He was always a team player," Coach Bobby Reyes said. "He always cared about the people around him, and that did not change from the time he played high school all the way through him being an adult."
Reyes said Smith was the reason his players are able to succeed.
"When you have a good foundation, it is easy to build on it. Smith did that for the kids that came through this program."
Reyes remembered the last time he talked to Smith.
"He hugged me. He always hugs me. He was that type of guy. We knew he would leave us, but we hoped it would be later rather than sooner."
Smith was a pioneer in Nacogdoches with the youth football program.
"It was never about the win or never about the loss. It was about the game and how the kids played together," Robin Smith said.
Senior Dragon Safety Brandon Jones was special to Smith. Jones lost his dad in middle school and Smith stepped in.
"With my dad passing away when I was in middle school, he just played the father figure role to my family as well," Jones said. "Everything he did was irreplaceable. He just loved on me."
"I went to him when I started getting offers for school and he would talk with me about them. I just play the game like he taught."
This year will be the first year for the Slaton Smith Football Scholarship, awarded to a player that shows great character on and off the field.
"He was a little embarrassed about the scholarship honor, because he did not do any of this to be recognized. He did it for the love he has for the kids."
Anyone wishing to give to the scholarship is asked to contact the NHS Alumni Association at 936-462-1403. There is also a foundation set up through the Boys and Girls Club and they can call 936-560-6844.
Smith was also a big supporter of Chilifest, which gave back to the Boys and Girls Club.