WOODSBORO – Coach Aaron Houston, who had taught and coached students in the Woodsboro Independent School District since 1986, was laid to rest during a funeral and honored at a memorial service at Eagle Stadium on Monday, May 25.
Houston has inspired countless students and adults alike, and those speaking during the memorial service talked about his strong dedication to students, his desire to help people wherever possible, his strong faith in God and his commitment to getting the best out of everyone.
In addition to much of the stadium being filled with those whose lives Houston had touched, at least 353 viewers watched the memorial service via a live Facebook presentation.
The songs “I Can Only Imagine,” “Temporary Home” and “Amazing Grace” were a prominent part of the service. Featured singers included Mandy Nixon and Anna, Adriana and Amber Vega.
“We celebrate the life of our beloved Coach Houston — good is not good enough. There are so many answers to why we are here,” said school board member Henry Balderamas. “We love Coach; we respect him; he was my teacher; he was my friend. We are here because we all want to see Coach Houston one more time; we want to hear his words one more time. ... You will always see Coach each and every time you walk into this stadium.”
He said that staying in a place or position so long still results in needed changes and adaptation.
“Coach had to get used to working with computers, and he wasn’t happy about that.”
Still, some of the terms he used in working on computers inspired new acronyms that Houston used. He said in a small community like Woodsboro, there was sometimes a shortage of players and that might even require sixth-graders to be called up to play for the junior high teams.
Houston called the younger, less experienced players NCUs — for non-contact units, noting that some of the younger junior high players had not learned how to take a hit on the football field. He was protective of those players, wanting them to gain experience and get them ready to play at a higher level when they were ready for it.
“Coach’s only reason for living and showing up every day was to help all of us,” Balderamas said. “Coach Houston would say before things get better we need to do better, to live our lives better and to treat each other better. Coach Houston was one man. Look at all the good he has done. Imagine the difference we could make if we lived our lives the way he lived.
“On May 20, God told Coach, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Your work here is over now.”
Servando Torres Jr., a pastor at Central Baptist Church in Kingsville who had known Houston for several years, talked about his impact and his witness.
“Aaron Houston didn’t live out his life for himself; he lived it out for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” the pastor said. “Brother Aaron and myself connected in many ways, as an educator, through athletics and as messengers God has called to share the word of Jesus Christ.
“He was an encourager, and he kept moving the bar higher. It was challenging, but he wanted us to raise expectations. As an educator, his ultimate goal was to see students rise. He knew he was in the fourth quarter of his life and that the time of his departure was near. ... My brother Aaron Houston is handing you a baton. Will you keep running the race until the Lord calls you home?
“He was a light for all the community, a good man and a counselor. If we would follow his example we would be all right.”
One former coworker of Houston, Keith Williams, spoke of Houston’s strong impact on those he met.
“I first met Coach in 1983 at a junior high track meet in Banquette when he was at Orange Grove. ... He pushed kids to work hard and do right. He wanted them to do well not just athletically but academically and socially. He had an easy way with students, and kids knew he cared about them. It wasn’t just kids that took to Coach Houston. It was everybody in the building.”
Another former coworker of Houston’s said he was always learning from Houston, and when he got a head coaching opportunity, he tried to lure Houston away from Woodsboro to a new school.
“In February 1992, I had completed my first year of being a head coach and was trying to get Coach Houston to leave Woodsboro and come coach with me,” Kevin Hall said.
Houston agreed to visit that school and speak to the athletes there, but stayed in Woodsboro. Still, he made a strong impact on those students even during his short visit.
“He pointed to the district championship ball on the wall and said, “First of all, y’all have learned how not to quit. Congratulations to you,” Hall recalled. Then Houston added, ‘Did you work hard enough today to get another (trophy) back up there? You’ve got to fill the shelf.’ The next day (the athletes) were having a great day in practice. It took him two minutes to refocus my team. Two of my leaders pointed to the shelf and said the team needed to fill the shelf.”
The players Houston spoke to on that day in 1992 are now 45 years old, Hall said.
“They still remembered that two-minute speech even though they never saw him again.
One of the team leaders said that after Houston’s speech, he couldn’t sleep that night, saying “That man changed me,” Hall said. “He has probably changed most of you sitting in this stadium.”
Coach Jaime Cano mentioned the pride Houston displayed when sitting at a restaurant out of town and being approached by two men who knew him by a nickname, asking if he was “El Oso Negro (the Black Bear).”
“Coach had a soft spot in his heart for everyone he taught, coached and worked with,” Cano said.
He spoke of Houston’s impact still being felt by his family and himself.
“Coach Houston has already come down to visit my family since his passing,” Cano said. “In a dream he was telling my daughter not to make such a big deal of things and telling me not to worry.”
During a Woodsboro ISD school board meeting, Jonathan Lesak, the new WISD athletic director and head football coach, said an award will be given to deserving students in Houston’s honor. The Coach Aaron Houston Good Isn’t Good Enough Award will be presented to an outstanding athlete in track and field.