NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Slaton Smith, a Nacogdoches native, had his legacy cemented almost two months after the youth football pioneer died.
Smith's widow along with their three sons, Gunnar, Gus and Jake presented the first ever Slaton Smith Football Scholarships to Nacogdoches seniors Jim Oglesbee and Tae Thomas during the annual scholarship assembly Tuesday morning at Nacogdoches High School.
"What makes this award unique is not only is it the first scholarship in Slaton's memory, but it is the first and only one that Slaton was involved in picking the winners," Robin Smith said.
Smith played football as a wide receiver for the Dragons in high school from 1984-1987. He met his wife Robin while in school. Slaton would leave Nacogdoches to attend college at Texas A&M before returning home to start a family.
"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."
Smith died April 8, 2015 at the age of 45.
Smith became the president of the Pineywoods Youth Football League that operated out of the Boys and Girls Club in Nacogdoches. Smith has been credited by those who know him the best as molding many of the current Dragon players. said today was emotional for him. Thomas played on a team against Smith's in the Pineywoods League.
"He was a real cool guy," Thomas said. "Real nice, real laid back."
Ogelsbee is a life-time University of Texas Longhorn fan and will be attending the Austin school in the fall. Ogelsbee said Smith would give him a hard time.
"I played for Coach Smith and had to wear that Aggie uniform," Ogelsbee said. "It was hard and he gave me a hard time about it, but he was a great coach to me."
Robin said she got the idea to start the scholarship as a way to let Smith's legacy live on for years.
"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," Robin Smith said in a previous interview. "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.
Smith's children said the experience this year has been hard, but it has also been exciting.
"it's awesome because his legacy get's to live on," Gunnar Smith said. "I play with these guys so for me to see them honored means a lot to me."
"My dad sat down with us and all us and all the people that were selecting the kids and I thought it was really cool," Jake Smith said.
"This was the only time [dad] was going to get to pick the scholarships for the two and I think that was really cool," Gus Smith said.
Thomas and Ogelsbee both agreed that the honor will stay with them forever because of the impact Smith had on them.
"It was nice getting to see him from a little kid to knowing him now and for people to actually pick me to receive this award, it was a good honor," Thomas said.
"It was a sad process over all but he left a huge impact on us as players and helping us develop into good young men," Ogelsbee said. "It's an honor to be hand picked by Coach Slaton. it means a lot that he would pick me and Tae for this award."
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.