LHISD Community Message
Building Champions in Academics, Character, and Community
From the Goal Post to the Gate
A week ago, Friday, after another Panther win, I waited for Coach to finish up all of his conversations, interviews, and post-game fist bumps. I shook his hand (bumped elbows thanks to COVID) like I always do, win or lose. Then we walked together from the goal post to the gate where he meets Miranda and the girls. We don't usually talk about the game other than to congratulate him, tell him I enjoyed watching his team compete, or poke a little fun at him. This time it was different. As Jeff walked off the field, I could tell he was laboring a little. I asked him how he was feeling, and he looked at me and shook his head.
If you know Jeff, you understand how tough his battle has been the last two years, and you also know that he never let it show. Coaches talk a lot about toughness, commitment, family, and team. Coach Walker walked the talk. Fiercely competitive and protective of his program and his family, Coach Walker privately was able to fight through immense pain and cancer treatments and rarely missed a practice or workout. When we would talk about his practices, he had every minute accounted for. His pursuit of perfection was unstoppable even through his last game. Even though he would tell you how much this team needed to improve, more times than not, his teams won and won convincingly.
When I asked about his health, he would always tell me, "I'm fine." So this time, when he didn't say anything, I knew it was not good. I told him to get some rest over the next week and have a great Thanksgiving. Little did I know that would be the last time I would see him.
Earlier in the fall, I nominated Coach Walker for the 2020 UIL Sponsor of Excellence Award. I found out Monday morning that he was one of the recipients of the Award. I typed a quick letter for his brother to take to him, and thanks to his wife and brother Kent, it was arranged that I could present the award to him over the phone.
Here are the words I said to him:
I cannot tell you how glad I am that I have gotten to work with you for the last two years and how proud I am that you represent LHISD as our Head Football Coach and Athletic Director. Two things that I am certain of 1) that you absolutely deserve this award 2) there would be NO WAY you would fill out the paperwork. So...Gina Ketchem and I worked with the UIL starting back in September to get all of the paperwork completed so that it would be turned in.
Congratulations on winning this award! It symbolizes the excellence you brought to LHISD and that you instilled in the coaches and student-athletes you led. You are easily one of the toughest and hardest working and selfless men I have ever met. You make sure everyone you coach and your coaches are prepared to handle every situation to win the game. The thing I am going to miss the most is the pre-game conversations about how good the opponent is and how we do not match up well, only to have us win by 50 points.
You are a great coach and an even better Husband and Father. You are leaving a Legacy of Winning on and off the field. This place is better because you were here, and these kids are much better because you coached them, improved them, loved them, and built Champions! Love you, Coach!
Later that night, after a perfect 8-0 season and as a Champion, Coach walked through a different gate.
Coach Walker's legacy cannot be truly measured at this time. Toughness, Winning, and the pursuit of perfection are all evident, but his love of all students, all sports, and his teams just can not be measured. The life lessons taught will continue to grow and be retaught by others for years to come. The coaching staff will continue to carry the torch, but the hole left by his physical absence is large. The spirit and energy he brought to Panther Nation will live on.
The one thing I know about Coach Walker is that he loved his wife and girls and family more than anything else; after that, it was Liberty Hill. Coach's influence was statewide as this week, I have received messages from coaches all over the state. The stories I have liked the best come from our current student-athletes and parents from all sports and the coaches he worked with.
I will forever be thankful to Kent for allowing me one last conversation.
We will present the award officially to the family before the playoff game next Friday night.
In the words of Coach Walker, "Be Tough!"
-Steve Snell, Superintendent LHISD
Coach Walker Tribute
Our local businesses and owners are rockstars! They donated $4132.53 to the LHISD Education Foundation from the proceeds of the successful Holiday Around the Hill event this past Saturday. Thank you for your continued support to our LH community, district, and LHEF- we are grateful for each of you!
Huge thanks to:
The Blue Door Gift Store & Boutique
The Wildflower Republic
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Liberty Hill ISD. Building Champions in Academics, Character, and Community