There are some things I’ve learned in life as I approach my 59th year on this earth. Friends come and go, and some can never be replaced.
That was the case with Steven Marshall who lost his life on November 3 in a motorcycle accident within a rock throw of his home.
I had just seen my buddy on Thursday at Hunter Elementary during the basketball game. He was there to watch his son, Tanner, play in the seventh grade game.
That’s one thing I remember about Steve so well. He was a good family man, always there for his kids and many others.
I found that Friday would be my toughest night ever to try and cover a football game. Not just any football game, but a home playoff game for the first time in 29 years.
I got back inside my car as tears streamed down my face when I first learned of his death. I had to try and regain my composure.
I later got out again, walked to the press box and stared down at the sidelines. I recalled seeing Steve on those same sidelines every Saturday. He always had a kind word for me.
But it was his love for all the kids he coached that stood out.
Many Johnson County youth athletes saw their names in the paper because Steven Marshall took the time out of his busy schedule to call their games in to me. He didn’t just call with the game scores.
He kept up with every yard gained and tackle made.
He mentioned every player who did something that day regardless if it was big or small. He wanted them to make the newspaper. It didn’t matter who they were. Steve had a special love for all of them.
I got to be good friends with Steve when my grandson attended Mountain City Elementary. He and Steve’s son, Sawyer, never got to play ball as a Longhorn together but ended up as rivals on the gridiron.
Sawyer was a Longhorn and Evan a Cyclone, but it didn’t matter to Steve. They were all special, just like his sons, Sawyer and Tanner.
Steven was an icon to every child in Johnson County. He served as an assistant coach and role model to many.
Brad Reece got to experience having Steven around as his assistant coach in baseball. He said it was a great fit from the start.
“He always had the same demeanor and was a good role model for the kids to be around,” said Reece. “He had that sense of humor that snuck up on you. I would be real serious and he would say something that would absolutely tickle you. He made the kids feel good and all those around him. He will definitely be missed.”
JCHS head basketball coach, Austin Atwood, spent the fall coaching football with Marshall. It was something he’ll always cherish.
“I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that close to anyone like I did Stephen the last two years,” said Atwood. “He was one of the best people that I’ve ever known and he went above and beyond to help out all our kids. He did the stuff that nobody wanted to do like keep up with stats and coach the kids up from the sidelines. It was like losing a family member for me and a lot people involved with sports up here.”
I agree that Steve was an icon to every child who played sports in Johnson County. He was also highly thought of by his rival coaching buddies including my son, Rusty, and Cyclones coach Brandon Blevins.
Many traveled to Mountain City to pay their last respects on Tuesday. But my mind is still on that Friday.
The high school game began at 7 pm and the sidelines were full of players and coaches standing. The same sidelines that were empty at 5 pm just two hours before kickoff.
I had a vision of Steve on the sideline, telephone out, pen and paper in hand, keeping stats. He was making sure they were accurate but more importantly making sure that every Johnson County kid got their name mentioned in the newspaper.
Steve leaves behind his lovely wife, Danae, sons, Sawyer and Tanner, his surrounding family. He leaves behind a ton of friends including me.
I will no longer receive emails, text messages or phone calls about the game from my little buddy. He recorded his biggest and final statistic on Friday.
Steve’s name could be found written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life” resting in paradise, awaiting that one way flight to Heaven upon Christ’s return.
God got the helper he needed. He also got one of the best assistant coaches and family men ever.
Rest in peace, my friend. You’ll forever be remembered and never forgotten.