TATUM, TX (KLTV) - In Tatum, the school is the town, and the Tatum Eagle football team is the pride of both. This week, the unity of the fieldhouse is even more important. Tatum Booster Club president Karen McIlwain is in fair condition in a Longview hospital following a Saturday wreck that killed her husband, Bill. The couple's twin sons are seniors for the Tatum Eagle football team. As the town turns out to support the family, the Eagles also make sure they take care of their own.
In hard times, you come together. Coach Andy Evans teaches that on the football field, and in life.
"You go to the hospital, there's going to be 15 or 20 kids there everyday," Tatum Coach Andy Evans said. "The night the accident happened, there must have been half of Tatum there in that waiting room, it speaks volumes for Tatum. It's a community that always seems to respond."
For a team like this and a town like this, everyone is family. The huddle doesn't stop on the football field.
"Mrs. McIlwain was our booster club president," said Evans. "She's on our school board. Mr. McIlwain is one of our biggest fans. Just the type of people that they were, they draw you to them."
With twin Eagle seniors Kevin and Devin staying at their mom's bedside, their team and town stands beside them.
"This is a time, it's not going to be over in a week or two, it's something they're going to deal with the rest of their lives," said Evans. "We, as coaches and players, have talked about that. We believe this is our responsibility to go with them each step of this. We're going to go through this together."
The coaching philosophy is team, unity and standing together. That carries on now on the field and off.
"We talk about 20 minutes a day about character development, life lessons," said Evans. "And, talk about things that are going to make them better men. This is one of those things where you get to see what you taught in the fieldhouse in action. I'm really proud of the way Devin and Kevin have handled this. As proud as I am of them, I'm just as proud of the rest of the kids and our coaches, the way they've gathered around that family."
No date has been set for Bill McIlwain's funeral, yet. The team continues to get ready for the season, but did postpone their 'Meet the Eagles' celebration until their pep rally later on this week. Tatum opens up Friday night at home against Hallsville.