Newton’s Johnston leaves inspirational mark

Published 9:40 am Monday, May 13, 2019

Former Newton Athletic Director and Head Football coach W.T. Johnston passed away Saturday.

Johnston led Newton to back-to-back state championships in 2017 and 2018 despite suffering from host versus graft disease, which he developed after receiving a double lung transplant in 2015.

“Not only has Coach Johnston made an impact on the athletic department, but he has had influence on the community of Newton as well,” Newton ISD Superintendent Michelle Barrow said in a statement released by the school district. “He is known in East Texas as well as across the country for his work in athletics and his encouragement to others to never give up but to cling to God and his Word. Newton ISD will miss him dearly”.

In April, Johnston resigned from his positions at Newton. His son, Drew, was named the new AD/head coach for the school. Drew Johnston served as the team’s defensive coordinator last season.

Johnston amassed a 97-15 in eight seasons as the Eagles head coach, reaching three state championship games and bringing back two state titles to Newton.

In December, millions around the country were inspired by his post-game speech after Newton defeated Canadian for their second straight title.

The emotional speech gained immediate national attention.

He spent the 2015 offseason undergoing treatments twice a week at Houston’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Medical and travel expenses exceeded $20,000 per week.

But the coach refused to give up, and was back coaching for the 2016 season. His battle inspired his team and the community.

Community members even opened an account at a local bank so his supporters could make donations.

Instead of hanging up the headset, Johnston spent more time coaching games from the press box. His son, Drew Johnston, was his defensive coordinator and helped relieve the day-to-day work load.

The resiliency was reflected in his football program. Johnston lived for four years after contracting GVHD, and he reached the top of the Texas High School football mountain twice.

Newton ISD has announced a memorial service will be held for Coach Johnston on Wednesday, May 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Newton High School football stadium.

The family asks that students and coaches from surrounding schools wear their own school colors in remembrance of Coach Johnston.

The family has asked that instead of flowers, those who wish to honor the memory of Coach Johnston give to a scholarship fund. Information and the fund will be released later in the week.