High School Sports

Inspiring Newton coach, who was battling Graft-versus-host disease, passes away

After battling Graft-versus-host disease for over three years, former Newton athletic director and head football coach W.T. Johnston passed away on Saturday.

In eight seasons, Johnston went 97-15 with the Eagles, capped off with back-to-back UIL state titles, despite suffering from Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), which he developed after receiving a double lung transplant in 2015.

GVHD is defined as a common complication, as many as four out of five people who get a transplant get it in some form, and it happens when the cells that come from a donor mistakenly attack your own cells.

“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 press release obtained by Fox Sports Southwest. “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”.

Newton went 15-0 each of the past two seasons and won the 3A Division II title over Gunter in 2017. The Eagles held off Canadian, 21-16, in December before 10,032 at AT&T Stadium.

Following the game, FSSW spoke with Johnston, who gave one of the most powerful post-game messages.

Johnston resigned from his positions in April with his son, Drew, taking over.

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