Sports writer pens book about Newton coach’s life, legacy

Sports writer pens book about Newton coach’s life, legacy
Sports writer Dave Burchett paints a vivid picture of Newton Coach W.T. Johnston's life and legacy in his new book, "Between the White Lines."

NEWTON, TEXAS (KTRE) - In 2017, Fox Sports Southwest writer and director Dave Burchett was assigned to work a state title game involving Newton High School.

The team won and Burchett formed a friendship with the late Coach W.T. Johnston which later led to him writing a book about his life and the impact he had on and off the field.

The book is called “Between the White Lines: Coach W.T. Johnston’s Determined Pursuit of Ultimate Victory.”

“I was randomly assigned to the 2017 Newton Championship game,” Burchett said. " We were talking about the offense and the plays he runs and towards the end someone asked WT about his health situation and he started to talk about a lot of the things going on in his typical, unvarnished style. He started talking about his faith helping him through his adversity. He caught my attention and then he started telling some stories and I was like, 'Whoa this is a story that needs to be told."

Burchett reached out to WT and over the course of several months he made trips down to the Pineywoods from his metroplex home to meet with the coach.

“This is about how you live your life and where you put your trust,” Burchett said. He was a typical high school football coach and was wrapped up in winning. That is the nature of our sport and the culture here. I think when he came to his faith and he realized there was more to life and there was things out of his control, he couldn’t control his health, he couldn’t control his eternal destiny and he was a man that liked to be in control. It was hard for him. Once he gave up control and put his faith in God it changed everything."

WT led the Eagles to two straight state championships. He coached players to state honors and helped them get scholarships. What stands out though is that he always made sure it was about more than football.

“I can list off the top of my head a half dozen former players that said he literally saved their lives,” Burchett said. His philosophy was you could coach these kids really hard if you are fair and if you love them. He would chew on their rears, as he would put it, but then he would go and hug them and talk to them. One night when I was down there one time he said, ‘excuse me for a second. I got to text a kid. I was hard on him today and I don’t want him to go to bed knowing I love him.’"

The title of the book came straight from WT.

“Inside the white lines there is no rich or poor, liberal or conservative,” Burchett said. “It is just competition. You can either do it or you can’t. He called the white lines the great equalizer. He loved to be in those white lines. One of the things he talked about was the huddle was a sacred place. He said I get to get down on my knees and be in that hudle. He said,' I think that is the thing I will miss the most.'”

Portions of the profit from the book will go to the W.T. Johnston Scholarship Fund.

Burchett will be in Newton on Oct. 18 when the Eagles host Hemphill for homecoming. He will be signing books and 100 percent of the money raised that night goes to the scholarship fund.

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