After Deaths, College Coach Plays Through Tragedy

Unexpected deaths and other freak accidents have tested Cary Fowler in his trying tenure as head football coach at Tarleton State.

By Rhonda FanningSeptember 23, 2015 9:00 am|

Imagine getting your dream job – coaching football at a Division 2 university in Texas. But then only days after taking the helm, during a regular practice, something happens. One of your players, Zach Shaver, takes a hard hit. He goes down. You rush out to him, but sadly, two days later dies from a brain injury. That was March of 2010.

Then in April 2012 Ron Newsome, the school’s longtime play-by-play announcer and former athletic director is found dead. A suicide.

A month later in May, Cody Stephens, an offensive lineman, dies of sudden cardiac arrest.

In March of 2014, another player, Chance Wallace, is paralyzed in a snowboarding accident.

In July of that year, the beloved football secretary is killed in a car accident.

In January of this year Camron Owens, a linesman, found dead in his dorm from a heart attack.

And in May, Christain Champine another player was killed in a car accident which left his teammate with life changing injuries….

Just one of those instances would be enough to make most folks want to walk away. It certainly wasn’t something Cary Fowler thought was in the cards when he took the job.

But it’s a job he’s still in today. Cary Fowler, head football coach at Tarleton State University, joins the Standard to talk about his team’s ability to overcome.

“These young men depend on you,” he says. “They look for advice, they look for encouragement.”

He says focusing on the players and their families helped him get past tough times, one step at a time. Even accidents that haven’t been fatal give him and his players more perspective, like the snowboarding accident that left would-be starting safety Chance Wallace paralyzed.

“It’s made me appreciate every day,” he says. “Our kids understand that too… They appreciate health, they appreciate the ability to walk.”

“It’s made me walk away from the game sometimes, and be with my kids,” he says. “It makes me appreciate the purpose in my life.”