‘Thank you, Coach’: Mississippi city mourns loss of coach killed in car accident
HOUSTON, Miss. (WTVA) - The community of Houston, Mississippi is mourning the tragic death of an educator, mentor and coach.
Anquntio Lewis, 28, of Starkville, was killed in a crash Monday morning in western Clay County. He taught and coached in the Chickasaw County School District.
School Superintendent John Ellison shared the following statement Monday afternoon.
“Words can not express the broken hearts, sorrow, and tremendous loss that we are feeling at the passing of Coach Anquntio Lewis. Coach Lewis was a first class teacher, coach, mentor, and friend who we will miss dearly. I ask for your thoughts and prayers for Coach Lewis’s family, our students, and our teachers as we go through this extremely difficult time. Counseling will be available to support students throughout today and in the upcoming days. We will all miss Coach Lewis, and we are grateful for the time God allowed Coach Lewis to invest in our schools, community, and in our lives. Thank you Coach.”
Houston High School Principal William Cook said he first met Lewis when the young man was in the sixth grade.
“Great young man, always had a smile on his face, positive attitude, worked hard, always gave 100% in everything that he did,” the principal said.
Lewis worked there for five years.
“He wanted his students to be successful, whether on the field or in the classroom,” Ellison said. “He left a mark on a lot of people that will not be forgotten.”
The superintendent said counselors are available to help students during this difficult time. School leaders are also working on how they’ll honor Lewis in the coming days.
Alfred Parker is a second cousin to Lewis. They both graduated from Houston High School and played football.
“When I was graduating, he was just coming in as a freshman, but all I remember was just a loving, warm-hearted, young man who loved his family so much.”
Pastor Gerard Valliant of Faith Way MB Church knew Lewis from his barbeque pit business. He said Lewis was a valued customer.
“He was very jolly, happy and very friendly person,” he said. “He didn’t meet strangers. When he came out, he was always polite.”
Coach Q made a lasting impact on his teammates, fellow coaches and players.
Speaking to a few of Coach Q’s close friends, we asked, What was he like? They all had pretty much the same answer: he was a great man, a great friend, and a great coach, who gave 110 percent in everything he did both on and off the football field.
“A lot of folks say that people are role models. He was one,” Former Houston head coach Ty Hardin said.
Hardin is the current Tupelo head coach, but he coached Lewis at Houston and hired him on as an assistant after Lewis graduated college. Hardin said that both as a player and a coach, no one worked as hard as Coach Q.
“It’s his first year of coaching and Q was the guy that was so serious,” Hardin said. “At the end of practice, he just comes up to me and was like, ‘Coach, some of these guys, they just don’t get after it like they’re supposed to.’ I said, ‘You’re exactly right. Not many of them are Q Lewis.’ We lost a special guy.”
As hard as he played on the field, he loved just as hard off the field.
“He’s always been right there beside me,” former Hilltopper teammate Sharone Wright said. “He’s been my day one for as long as I can remember.”
“He was just a great guy to be around, loving person, been knowing him since we were yay-high,” former Hilltopper teammate Quon Brand said.
Brand and Wright graduated Houston with Lewis and played football together at ICC. Even though life took them in different directions, they always kept in touch. Two weeks ago, Lewis had both of them and their families over for Easter.
“I took my son, his son and my son play together fighting, just like we played together back in the day,” Brand said.
Then on Monday, Brand and Wright both texted Lewis to wish him a happy birthday, not knowing he would never text back.
But according to Wright, Lewis wouldn’t want people to feel bad because that’s not who Lewis was and not what he stood for. He’d want his friends, his family, his community to persevere.
“We gotta think about what he would want and he would want us to keep pushing,” Wright said. “He’d want people to keep pushing on, and that’s what I’m going to do and I want everyone in the City of Houston to do the same.”
The Hilltopper football program has had a devastating few months. Back in the fall, defensive lineman Jamarcus Hall suddenly passed away right before their playoff game.
Monday was supposed to be the start of spring football practice before they received the news that nobody wanted to hear.
Senior quarterback Red Parker talked about the impact Coach Q had on the team and how all these guys are supporting each other to get through hard times.
“He always cared about us, not just as a football player but as us being men,” Parker said.
Not only was Coach Q an assistant coach, he also taught history. He held his players accountable in the classroom and on the field, but Parker remembers, “that smile, that smile. And ‘What’s up Red’ in the hallway. I’ll always remember that.”
Parker said coach was an intense guy, asked a lot of his players, but every once in a while they’d get him to laugh, which was his favorite story.
“We was all at practice, he was telling the db’s that he played sideline to sideline,” Parker said. “We just looked at him and laughed and was just like ‘What? What?’ That was his favorite phrase. That was just a funny story to us.”
You have to remember the good times when going through the bad. Parker and his senior class have seen their share of bad. They lost a teammate their freshman and senior years and, this week, their coach and mentor, but Topper football, whatever they go through, they go through together.
“We always got each other’s back no matter what,” Parker said. “Topper football will always be a brotherhood, and that’s been set by example by the seniors before us and even with us to these younger guys now.”
Current Houston head coach Baylor Dampeer said that they are going to work with the school to create a scholarship in Coach Q’s name as well as a potential go fund me for his family.
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