NEWTON, TX (KTRE) - To understand what Coach WT Johnston means to the Newton Eagle players, you have to go back more than a year ago.
The eagles were preparing for a state title run and Johnston was just praying he would be alive to see it.
In 2015, Johnston received a double lung transplant but soon after developed chronic graft versus host disease making it difficult for him to breathe. The disease attacks his white blood count. In short, there is no time table for how long the coach might live. That's hard news to give teenagers.
“It hurt us all,” Newton senior Christian Keilum said. “I know he is being strong so we are going to stand in our gap and be strong like he wants us too.”
Johnston was at AT&T Stadium to see the Eagles win the state title. A Year later, he is on the sideline looking for a repeat.
“It means a lot to the community and the kids,” Assistant Coach Jeff Parks said. “They look forward to Coach Johnston being around and the coaching staff does too.”
Coach Johnston doesn't let the golf cart or oxygen tank keep him from coaching.
"That man is crazy, but he is a good coach,” Lineman Caiden Walker said. “We can just look down there and he is an inspiration. He doesn't even have to say a word. "
For the players the game against Canadian is bigger than a state title. The game is a chance to give Johnston another happy memory.
“He makes it hard but if it wasn’t hard we wouldn’t be here right now,” James Sylvester said. “We would have never been practicing on Saturdays or out here right now. We would just be in the gym. All of it is for coach.”
The Eagles kick off at the UIL State Championships at 3 p.m. Thursday against the Canadian Wildcats.